Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Really Makes The Church "Look Bad"?

Prov. 14:34 ~ Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

In light of our national conference call dealing with COGIC sexual abuse, clergy sexual misconduct, and victim's advocacy, I have taken it upon myself to examine an issue in a much more indepth manner than I have previously. Of a certainty, some think that dealing with the issues which were dealt with during the call should not have been placed on "public display" and should have been dealt with privately and through various church councils and processes. Although we have been there and done that  with no or very little results, I thought that I should address that issue and those sentiments from a more specific biblical view. 

The Problem:

In many Christian circles the thought exists that those who are aware of certain sins in the church should not talk about and or expose those things because the church may "look bad" or be seen in the wrong light by the world. Some say that we should "just pray" and that things will "work out". Some rationalize their lack of response or failure to address serious topics by saying that no business airs its dirty laundry before its customers or clients, so why should it be a practice of people of God to expose the dirty laundry of the church? Others even say that speaking evil or negative of the church or exposing what is going on is a sign of hatred for the church and not a sign of love, because after all, "love covers the multitude of sin and fault". 

I pose that we should critically examine whether any of those sentiments are in accord with biblical teachings on the relationship of God, his church and the Christian moral value ethic? Should we love the church into silence of its sins and simply relegate ourselves to prayer as the only means to deal with the sins running rampant throughout our churches and sometimes whole denominations? Then we should examine, is it those who expose the sins of the church who make it look bad or is it the sin of the church that makes it look bad? Should "looking bad" be of any concern when it comes to presenting God a living sacrifice which is holy and acceptable unto him? 

These are the questions of greater importance and the questions that those who seek God and are careful to have and allow their steps ordered by him seek to know. In this article, I will look at 3 things as it pertains to this issue:

Section I- The Sin Problem: God's View Both Corporately & Individually
Section II- The Historical Biblical Approach To Dealing With & Exposing Sin. 
Section III- The New Testament Encouragement  & Example Of How Sin Is Dealt With & Righteousness As It Pertains To The Justice Of God.

Let's take a look at this: 

Section I: 
The Sin Problem: God's View Both Corporately & Individually 

Isaiah 59:1-4 ~  1-Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2-But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3-For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4-None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

Unlike in most other religious systems, within Christianity, "sin" is the primary problem between God and man. Augustine (354-430 AD), drawing his context from the Pauline Epistles such as Rom. 5:12-21, termed Adam's sin as "original sin" or the point where the very nature of man was changed from holy to unholy, from righteous to unrighteous. This doctrine has continued to be taught through the ages stating that since Adam, all men are born into sin, and that all men need, by virtue of their birth into this world, a savior.

Looking underneath that and examining the argument more closely, we find that one need not be born or created a "sinner" (one who practices or has a propensity to sin) in order to sin. Remember, Adam was a sinless creation made in the "image and likeness of God", yet still sinned. Further, the devil himself, was created a holy being, but sinned and caused other angelic host to sin along with him. 

Question: So where does sin come from? 

Answer: Sin comes from the core part of man. What Jesus calls the heart:

Matt. 15:18-20 ~ 18-But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19-For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20-These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man

David also recognized this in his famous repentance discourse after his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba had been exposed:

Ps. 51:10 ~ 10-Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

V. 6 of that same passage David states that the Lord desired "truth in the inward parts". It is from this dimension that man serves the Lord. God mad sin possible by delivering man a free will and a choice to serve or not, and to believe or not believe. However, man made sin actual, by making the choice and setting his will in motion. Sin does not come from the extension of freewill of choice, or the ability to chose, it comes from making the wrong choice and ultimately unbelief that God is true in what he has said or done. 

Who Can Sin?

As we have seen, the bible certainly teaches that an individual can sin. The bible also teaches that a "people" or a nation or culture can sin as well. In fact both can be led into sin by their leaders as well:


Isa. 9:16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.


Isa. 3:12b ~ ... O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

God is especially interested in man's relationship to sin. Does man repent of his sins, or does he retain his sins? Does man love his sins, or does he divest himself of his sins? The answer and examination of both of those issues is vitally important. 

Is There A Cure For Sin? 

Thank God there is for those who will repent. From Genesis to Revelation the cure to sin has been pronounced and is available for all. In fact before the very world was created and sin was realized, there was a cure for sin. Jesus was the "lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:18). The early church both taught and understood that Jesus, the true and living Son Of God, with the very nature of God himself on Earth. This was the cure and the answer to sin, "God IN CHRIST reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Cor. 5:19a). As I alluded to earlier, Paul states: 

Romans 5: 18-21 ~ 18-Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19-For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20-Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21-That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sin is the vehicle by which we entered into a relationship of death. This relationship of "death" led not only to a physical death, but pointed towards a spiritual death culminated by eternal separation from God. This (eternal separation from God) is a condition that I don't believe any of us know to the fullest degree here on Earth, but one that will be realized when death and hell are cast into the "lake of fire".(Rev. 20:14)

So sin is a pretty serious issue as it pertains to serving God. Unrepentant sin is what separates us from God and is the ultimate culprit that takes life, peace, happiness and joy from us as believers. It is sin displayed through self-righteousness that is hated by God (Prov. 6:16) who is love (1 John 4:16). It is sin that is when covered by men that causes us to not prosper in God's eyes and in his sight. 

Prov. 28:13 ~ He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

So what can we adduce from scriptural teaching on the issues, of which I certainly have not comprehensively covered here? I believe that we can summarize that sin

1- Is a condition that separates us from God & is therefore not pleasing to HIM.
2- Is a condition that causes spiritual death which is represented by a natural death, which we were neither created nor designed to experience.
3- Is a condition that Jesus came to solve by giving his life to redeem us from sin's power, which began with Adam.
4- Is a condition of the heart, and not simply of ones actions. Actions are symptomatic of sin.
5- Is the only condition, rooted in unbelief, by which man can be lost and eternally separated from God.
6- Is a problem that is solved in Christ, as if any man be in HIM, he is a new creature. (2 Cor. 5:17)
7- Must be repented of

Section II: 
The Historical Biblical Approach To Dealing With & Exposing Sin. 

Many who prefer that sin, especially within the church, not be emphasized, go to great lengths to shame those who believe and do the contrary and they especially don't like this part. I have had some say that they don;t even preach sin because "everyone already knows what they did wrong" and yet others say they don't engage sin because "nobody wants to hear what's wrong, we only want to hear what's right". 

Some paint the picture that those who deal with the issues of sin and the prevailing secularism that has entered the church are destroying the church and Kingdom of God, and causing discord within the church. But is any of this true? 

The scripture is actually clear"

Isa. 58:1~ Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Isaiah, called the "Eagle eyed prophet" because he saw saw precisely over so many generations that cam after him, was clear in the message and word that he received from the Lord. As a Prophet to the nation his job was to not only hear from God but to pronounce what God pronounced to the nation. His message was filled with a warning and the clear commendation from God to preach against sin and the sins that the people were committing or going to commit.

We can mention Jeremiah, whose mission was to preach the word so much until he himself would reconsider, because every time he opened his mouth he fell into trouble:


Jeremiah 20:9 ~Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.


There there is the prophet Ezekiel who never saw his homeland, but prophesied just as clearly as his predecessors, Isaiah and Jeremiah. that worked 2 ways, found in Isaiah 3:18 and also 33:8. It goes like this:

Ezek. 3:18 ~ When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Ezek. 33:8 ~ When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

God decided that the sins of the people was so bad that he destroyed the original inhabitants of the world save Noah and his sons (Genesis 6:5) The sin of Sodom was so great (Gen. 18:20-21) that God decided to destroy the city and states associated with it. Abraham became a negotiator but the sin was so prevalent that God destroyed it anyway (Gen. 19:24). Moses dealt with the sins of the people in Horeb, causing over 3,000 to be put to death as they reveled while Moses was in council with God (Ex. 32). In 1 Samuel 4, the Ark of the Covenant was lost because Eli failed to deal with the sins of his sons Hophni and Phineas. In Leviticus 10 the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were in sin and offered "strange fire to the Lord" upon HIS alter and were consumed by the wrath of God as a result. In Joshua 7 we find that it was the sin of Achan that caused Israel to be defeated by the small city and army of Ai. 

Then the book of Judges records the sin cycle of God's people and how they never escaped the judgement of sin as a nation until they repented of their sins and God sent a deliverer. The prophets over and over, warned the nation that the people must pay for their sins and that God was not entertained by sin in any manner. Further, God was not indulged by David's sin, causing him to pay for his sin and repent, both tasks that David gladly did when he considered what he deserved because of his sin. 

When the Children of Israel were going into the promised land, Gad, Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh did not want to cross over to the other side. God's anger was kindled and the warning was clear. In return for not going over they were to render their soldiers for their brothers without reservation and follow the obligated and instructed path or there would be penalty. God rehearsed through Moses that even the sin of omission (if they failed to do so) would not be tolerated or looked upon lightly:


Numbers 32:23But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.


God implemented a whole sacrificial system (that pointed toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus) whereby sin would be atoned or provided for so that it would not continually hold or have an effect on God's people and God's relationship with his people. God dealt decisively, openly and pointedly with sin in the Old Testament (OT). He did not avoid sin because of what those on the outside thought. In fact, God's dealing with sin made HIS people different from the heathen nations, as they were not to engage and or embrace what the heathens embraced or engaged in. The sin consciousness of the people and of God made the difference. 

For the information contained in this section, we can conclude that 

1- God was not ashamed to deal openly with unrepentant sin of HIS people whether it was an individual or a nation.
2- God did not consider exposing and dispensing of sin a shame, but considered the sin itself a shame.
3- God dealt forthrightly and openly with sin and was not worried about public perception of the people. He was their God and therefore exercised and maintained his right to deal with HIS people as HE saw fit. 
4- Conformity with the world was NOT the motive nor mission of God in dealing with the people. In fact if it was not for his mercy and grace, the people would have been destroyed. 
5- People in position or with titles who sinned were not treated any less when it came to exhortation to repentance, the soul that sinned was expected to repent. 
6- God looked upon failure to obey or follow-through upon proscribed paths of righteousness as an evil and as a sin for which penalties would be paid.  

Section III: 
The New Testament Encouragement  & Example Of How Sin Is Dealt With & Righteousness As It Pertains To The Justice Of God. 


Of course Jesus takes all sins and nails it to the cross, making an open show of the devil and his power:

Col. 2:13-15 ~  13-And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14-Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15-And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Peter In Acts 5

However, that did not stop Peter, Paul nor any of the New Testament Apostles or writers from dealing with sin and encouraging HIS people to be holy. One of the first examples we see of this is in Acts 5, when the husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira conspired to "lie to the Holy Ghost" v3, by pretending to give all, when they had only given a portion of the money from the sale of their land. In this narrative, we find that God not only dealt with the sin openly, he caused both conspirators who were simply dishonest, to die v.5, v.10, and this was done so that all men could see as great "fear came upon all the church"v.11.

There was no private meetings. Letters sent to them for their approval, or for any begging or pleading in the name of 'love" and Christian "courtesy". There was no council that met to discuss how they could be "restored" and "healed' from their lying or from their sins. There was also no concern as to how the community of believers, which was yet under suspicion and persecution, would be perceived among the world and the public. NONE of those things were either important or emphasized. What was important was the truth and righteousness of God and the preeminence of Christ in HIS church. 

Paul To Corinth

I could go on to many New Testament (NT) scriptures to display this, but one of the most pertinent scriptures is that of Paul dealing with the issues of sin which had arisen in the Corinthian church. Specifically Paul's commendations and instructions to the church in dealing with persons who had been caught up in sexual immorality and sexual sins. An examination of this is really quite amazing, because sexual sins have run rampant, in my opinion, throughout the Christian church. Here is the context upon which Paul would instruct the church:

1 Cor. 5:1 ~ It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.

The effort was to deal with a case of sexual immorality and perversion which had arisen in the church. Surprisingly enough, Paul, the same one who wrote 1 Cor. 13 on LOVE and how we should deal with one another in honor, instructed the church to put the sexually immoral person OUT OF THE MIDST of the church. 

1 Cor. 5:9-13~ 9-I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10-Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11-But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12-For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13-But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Paul not only focused on the sexually immoral stating that the church and any member of the church was not to fellowship with him, but he also focused on the covetous, extortioners, drunkards, railers and idolaters who were supposedly "brothers" or fellow believers. So the emphasis here was not to avoid people who were sinners, but the emphasis was to remove hypocrites from the midst of believers and to encourage the church not to have fellowship with those who had ungodly works yet claiming to be Saints. In finality, according to Paul, the church was not supposed to even eat with these folk, which was  Jewish form of high fellowship and honor. 

Those engaged in hypocrisy were not supposed to be begged or pleaded with to get them to stop their sins. They were to be dealt with accordingly and let know publicly that their sins were egregious to God, harmful to the church and were intolerable. 

Am I stating that a wholesale effort should made to do this today? NO. I believe that we are too far gone and the next charlatan that may be rooted up or put out may be US! However, what I am saying is that God dealt with these issues seriously and was not interested in the approval of a Board of Bishops, or a General Assembly or any such council in dealing with it. God is interested in restoration and in restoring the Saints to righteousness and true holiness.  

In this section we can observe the following:

1- God, even under the dispensation of grace, demands holiness within his church and from his people.
2- God is interested in how unchecked and unrepentant sin affects the community of believers
3- God deals with people and individuals to varying degree according to their sins
4- God has delivered standards to believers in how we are to deal with sin and deal with people caught in unrepentant forms of sins. We were never instructed to take them in if they were unrepentant, but are clearly instructed that believers should make a difference between clean and unclean. 


1 Peter 1:15-16 ~ 15-But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16-Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Conclusion: 

From this discourse, we can readily observe that God's command to his body of called out believers is yet the same. God may have changed and redirected his methods of operations in NT times, but his command to righteousness is yet the same. 

God does not care about the church, whatever church it may be, looking bad. God is not looking to be courteous to leaders, who feel that the instruction of God can only come through them when they have failed to deliver the full council of God and have not dedicated themselves to assuring that the people of God are embracing the holy and righteous path of living. 

Sentiments along the lines of worrying about "looking bad" or being "exposed before the world" are nothing more than modern, humanistically inspired emotive and an application of self-righteousness. Contrary to Moses and Abraham pleading with God for mercy upon the people, those who worry about how "we will look" are only seeking to preserve their place and status in the world at the end of the day. It is about self, not about God nor his people. 

Sentiments along these lines of "how we will look" only cater to the flesh and the carnal nature and mind of man. The fact is that neither God, righteousness, nor his judgement makes anyone "look bad". If God did not deal with unrepentant immorality he would not be a just God. Repentance however means not only turning from evil, but also pursuing righteousness and holiness.

I expect what I have set forth here to be debated, and it may even make many angry. However, my hope is that it makes individuals angry enough to read their bibles and repent and go back to the foundation of God that has sustained and helped us and brought us this far. If WE repent this nation may change and I know that there will be a great move of God toward his people. 2 Chron. 7:14 promises that. 

1 John 3:2-3 2-Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3-And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

FAILURE to repent and get this right and minister to the needs of those who have been victimized makes us LOOK BAD. We don't look bad for getting it right, removing the stumbling block and recommitting our environment and church back to God. That will always make us look good. Individuals want to be a part of a safe environment in which certain atrocities will not be tolerated or excused. To do anything less makes us LOOK BAD.  

The question is do we really have this HOPE? If so, produce a victim's advocacy whereby people can be healed, delivered and set free and those who have committed themselves to do evil can be put away from our midst.

Blessed!

New
COGIC National Conference Call Victim's Advocacy Pt. 1
COGIC National Conference Call Victim's Advocacy Pt. 2
COGIC National Conference Call Victim's Advocacy Pt. 3
COGIC National Conference Call Victim's Advocacy Pt. 4
COGIC National Conference Call Victim's Advocacy Pt. 5

1 comment:

  1. Let me add, that there is something else that makes the church look bad...it is unfeeling and status quo saints!...these folk that wish to reinterpret things saying that this is nothing new...Well it is...for 7 years it's new and a conversation that has not been had like this in this church. It is one that the women should embrace as well, but find that some are just as status quo as some of the men who have committed these dirty deeds. That is sad!

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