Commitment To A Local Church 3 (Speaking The Truth In Love)
We continue in digging into the Bible to understand the importance of a commitment to a particular local church over a long period of time. We began last Sunday in Ephesians4&will continue there this morning. Here are the verses we dug into last week:
Ephesians 4: 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Our responsibility to each other is more than just being nice/polite (easy!); it’s a responsibility to help each other spiritually grow in Christ (not easy!), to become who He made us to be not just to feel good about the way we’ve always been. If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t being the Church. We are not here to put the “lite in polite,” but to partner with each other & with God as He puts the “ow in grow.”
This maturity also includes speaking the Truth in love to each other. Not just speaking the love in love—what makes people happy all the time & constantly feel good about themselves. But speaking the Truth in love so that we can actually mature & not remain spiritual infants, growing in EVERY way: beliefs, attitudes, actions, plans, responses, w/all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit over time. That fruit is GROWN slowly, not uploaded instantly. Thus Paul uses the word “work”—works of service building each other up, not hobbies of service (easy, when convenient).
17So I tell u this, &insist on it in theLord, that u must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.18They are darkened in their understanding&separated from the life of God b/c of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, &they are full of greed.
Speaking the Truth in love is a cornerstone in maturing in Christ. God has even designed UNITY to include speaking the Truth in love! In the short-run it can make us run from each other because spiritual accountabiulity hurts our sinful pride. But when done in the power of the Holy Spirit on the Word of God, speaking the Truth in love leads to MORE unity/closeness, not less! It’s counter-intuitive to worldly wisdom, but such is all the wisdom of God!
Part of being committed to a local church for the long-haul is to sometimes hear, “Please don’t do that anymore. What you’re doing/believing, is serious, dishonors God & will harm you & the witness/testimony of this local church (& more importantly the reputation of Christ Himself). Please—let’s learn together to stop that & start this. Don’t think/act like that anymore, let’s both go together to the throne of grace to receive help in our time of need!” Hebrews 4:16
But we don’t do this, loved ones. We don’t want to break the most sacred rule of culture: “don’t judge anyone.” So we distort grace to become a “sweeping under the rug of sin” instead of compassionately & patiently confronting sin & dealing with it. We obey culture & disobey Christ.
- If a child were to get F’s & D’s in a subject, it’s not loving the child to say, “Let’s just get some ice cream!” To do that over & over but not deal with the issue, to not spend time working on that particular subject, to not study it more closely together, or to wear the poor grades as a badge of honor & be proud of them, that’s not really loving the child. That approach wont help them but only harm them in the long-run.
- Rather, may we say, “I love you—let’s get a scoop of ice cream as we discuss why you’re getting these grades, why it is important to work hard to improve them& not be satisfied w/them, & start getting extra-help together in this particular subject.” That is Biblical love—not ignoring the problem or thinking it’ll get better on its own (or thinking it’s not a problem & celebrating it!)—but dealing with it gently, patiently, yet clearly & intentionally.
Thus, one of the most loving things we can do to another Christian is to gently point out sin & offer to walk with them—discipleship!—so the LORD can heal/transform/turn them from that particular sin, & us from our particular sins!
But in the race that the Lord Jesus has marked out for His people, we’ve begun to simply hold hands & spin in a circle, singing over & over, “God loves me God loves me God loves me.” We’ve stopped moving forward, stopped growing—we’re just going in circles. He does love us—we must never forget that! But as we sing that we are to move forward in holiness—not just sitting in a circle singing of His love. We’re also to weep over our sinfulness because He loves us so much, we are to ruthlessly repent of our sinfulness & partner with Him as He forgives us of sin & transform us from sin. True grace does both…
1 Peter 2:1-6, 11-12 “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good…”
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God&precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house [temple of the Spirit] to be a holy priesthood [MATURITY in COMMUNITY!], offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
- Abstaining from sinful desires & living lives of obedience to God among non-Christians: all that happens in community, not isolation—“dear friends”—plural, not singular.
James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
So many Christian songs simply focus on this message, “He loves you just the way you are, He loves you in your brokenness.” Over & over—that’s the only message.
Is that true? Yes! That is true! But that isn’t all that is true, that’s not all that the Bible and the Gospel reveal; that isn’t all there is to know.
- It’s like a CD that skips—only that part of the song repeats over & over. When a CD skips, it’s irritating and we go and fix the CD, even though we like that particular part of the song that is playing over & over. That message is in the song, but it’s not the whole song! There are other important lyrics in the song before and after that lyric!
Yes He loves us the way we are, but He also loves us too much for us to stay that way. Yes He loves us in our brokenness, but He also heals & restores & matures us to be less broken. We must learn to sing the whole song of the Gospel:
- Because God loves you, we must give serious attention to sin & repent/turn from it daily & learn in community/fellowship with a specific group of Christians in a particular local church to daily crucify our sinful desires, confessing our sin to each other!
But the result we are seeing from this focus on just one part of the Gospel is that church-attenders are getting more comfortable with & accepting of sin—even celebrating it! A focus on part of the Gospel–intentionally producing CDs that skip!–isn’t leading to maturity & holiness, it’s leading to more sinful behavior, like taking a few ingredients of medicine doesn’t lead to health; all ingredients must be consumed.
[As a side note, loved ones, when you think about what you know & love about the LORD, does a Christian song come to mind first or a Bible verse/passage? What do you live by more each day: Christian songs or Scripture?
If we are rarely ever digging into the Bible to know the Lord Jesus but listening to a lot of contemporary Christian music, we are going to get to know, at best, a portion of the Lord Jesus (and at worst be seriously misled about Who He really is & what He wants us to do).
- Have you ever heard a Christian song skillfully singing about Jesus’ words that unless a branch bears fruit it will be cut off and thrown into the fire? I’ve never heard one, and yet here is an important and prominent passage, Truth that the Lord taught right before He was crucified…and unless you read the Bible verse by verse you will never learn about it through popular Christian music.
We must be in His Word (all of it from Genesis to Revelation!), and His Word must be in us, or we won’t bear fruit for the fame & glory of the Father; we won’t grow.
- Christian music can be like a vitamin, a healthy supplement to a steady diet of daily Bible reading through all of Scripture. But if we skip Bible reading—the actual balanced meal—and simply live & feed off the vitamin, we won’t be healthy spiritually any more than you would be healthy physically if you lived each day on a bottle of Centrum…]
Why do we recoil from this? Why do we run from accountability in the family of God? Because we are inflated by the culture’s overwhelming focus on the importance of self-esteem.
We have hungrily sucked in, like a deflated balloon, & joyfully blow the same hot air into others, the message that one of the most important things you can have is a high self-esteem, to believe in yourself, you’re amazing, be who you want to be, embrace who you are, etc.
- So gently pointing out the sins of other Christians is the tip of a needle to an inflated balloon—we immediately pop/deflate & get angry/defensive because such accountability goes against the self-inflation we have been so dedicated to. Balloons are blown up easily/quickly, but they also easily deflate/pop.
- But that same needle, when poked into a human body, while it hurts, that same needle can provide medicine to heal from illness & a vaccine to prevent future illness. The same needle that is good for the health of the body is offensive to the inflation of a balloon.
How does the Bible describe God’s people: a body, or a balloon? If we see ourselves as balloons, we will run toward inflation & away from all needles—just tell me what I want to hear, make me feel good—it’s all hot air.
If we see ourselves as a body—the body of Christ, who He died for to make us holy (Ephesians 5:25-27)—we’ll run away from inflation & toward the needle of spiritual accountability. We’ll cry out to God to lower our self-esteem, not raise it, & to raise our God-esteem, our trust in and focus on Him. 2 Corinthians 5 says that in Christ we are a “new creation,” not a “new inflation.” Jesus is creating us, not inflating us. So let’s avoid the quick inflation of self-esteem & partner with the Holy Spirit & the Bible & each other for the long-term re-creation of God-esteem, of personal holiness & maturity.
Deep down we think that once inflated we will, like a balloon, float up closer to God. But we don’t & won’t—inflated balloons don’t float up but AWAY, blown about by every gust of wind. That is what this passage is talking about—“infants, blown here & there by every wind of teaching.” Inflated balloons can’t float up to the LORD—only His body, His new creation, not floating up to Him but being carried up by Him on eagle’s wings.
Back to Ephesians 4: 20 That, however, is not the way of life u learned 21 when u heard about Christ & were taught in him in accordance w/the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, w/regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self [part of being taught to “put off the old self” is to have others gently point out when we are trying to put the old self back on!] which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 & to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness & holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
The “therefore” above is connected to the previous passage: we are to speak the Truth in love to other Christians because we all have the tendency to slip back, in various ways, into living/believing/acting/thinking the way we did before the Lord Jesus forgave us/made us new/adopted us. When we start to veer over into the other lane—the oncoming traffic we used to drive in!—we’re to gently point that out to each other in Truth & compassion.
Speaking Truth to other Christians—& letting them speak Truth to us—implies we’re growing closer to each other, we’re spending time together so we see the real person/entire person, beneath the spiritual make up & behind the ‘doin fine/doin great!’, the full movie not the brief trailer with all the best parts back to back.
Finally, is this really Biblical, this speaking the Truth in love to other Christians?
Matthew 18:6-17: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their sin to them.”
- Yes, some ancient manuscripts say “if they sin against you,” but the vast majority say simply sin. If we see other Christians sinning, we have a responsibility in humility and gentleness to point out that sin to them.
- This passage is in the context of “beware if you cause one of these little ones to stumble, to sin.” Jesus says it would be better off for us to be DROWNED than to cause another Christian to sin…by saying nothing when a Christian is speeding 80 mph toward a cliff, to simply adjust the music station and increase the air conditioning so they feel comfortable speeding toward the cliff, that is not love, that is contributing to their sin…
2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be fully equipped for every good work.”
- One of main purposes of the Bible is to correct & rebuke Christians & have them do the same to us! Train in righteousness: do this, don’t do that. How do we miss this?
1 Timothy 5:20-22: 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God & Christ Jesus & the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, & to do nothing out of favoritism.22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, & do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
- But we do share in the sins of others, we stay impure, when we have the subconscious agreement: “You don’t look at or bring up my sin, I won’t look at or bring up yours.” That seems to be one of the cornerstones of the suburban American local church!!!
Colossians 1:28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
- Admonish: “To warn, exhort. This term may involve not only warning someone of error, but also alerting them to its consequences&showing them the means of correcting their problem” (NIV Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, p. 1654, © 1996)
Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, & songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
- To admonish Christians—& be admonished by them—flows from the message of Christ! That’s what TRUE grace leads to—singing&gratitude—we’re thankful—not resentful—for the ways God warns & corrects us thru other Christians!
1 Thessalonians 5:12 [ Final Instructions ] Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.
- To admonish/warn Christians is part of caring for them in the LORD. But worldliness has so crept into American local churches that we not only don’t admonish Christians, we label as Pharisaical/hypocritical/intolerant/unloving anyone who does.
Proverbs 27:5-6: Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
What a difficult topic. Some of us have experienced “speaking the Truth in truth”—that is surgery without anesthesia. So many local churches & Christians have swung to the other extreme: “speaking the love in love”—that is anesthesia without surgery. People are numb, never feeling pain, but also never getting healed & mature. “Speaking the Truth in love”—THAT is what God commands His people to do, and He is able to transform us to do this!
Don’t rush out & start doing this today—it takes spiritual maturity! We’ll look more at how to do this gently in a few posts. But don’t run up to each other after the service & unload both barrels that you’ve been loading for months/years! Don’t give a piece of your mind but ALL of your heart to build them up in maturity. How we point out each others’ sins is just as important as actually doing so. We must learn to do this humbly,
- after much prayer,
- under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
- in gentleness & respect,
- out of compassion,
- remembering the trillions of debt that Christ has forgiven us when we point out the hundreds of debt of others,
- seeking to build someone up not tear down (though they may feel torn down in the short-run),
- not to make ourselves feel better because we aren’t doing that particular sin or to get back at that same person because they hurt you in the past.
Since most of us have been so accustomed to never having anyone critique us for anything, this speaking the Truth in love command will be a life-long rehab process—at first the slightest Truth will feel like sandpaper on sunburned skin. But let’s confess our falsehood to the LORD—false love!—& ask Him to forgive/cleanse/make us into a local church that learns this delicate & important skill—committed to each other long term, speaking the Truth in love so we become who He made us to be for His glory, for the spread of His fame…