[This is one of my posts sharing what I learned at the Desiring God Conference! One of my favorite sessions was Russell Moore on corporate sanctification. Just the first 20 minutes of his talk had my mind spinning with all the thoughts below. Enjoy!]
I hate church discipline.
I mean, I love it. I value it. I see how it perseveres the body of Christ, but as a girl who has an absolute phobia of getting in trouble coupled with a rebellious spirit, Church discipline sounds like my worst nightmare.
But it’s not. My worst nightmare would be forsaking Jesus. My nightmare would be making choices in this life that will testify in the next that I never knew Him.
So, if church discipline is a means to keep me from that horror, bring it on.
Church discipline is everything or anything the body of believers says and do around you to help you fight for holiness. It’s the conversations I have with my roommate when she asks me my motivation for something she saw in my life that day. It’s the gentle challenges I receive from my co-workers. It’s the hard lines I draw for my interns, and ask my elders to draw for me, that help me have boundaries in places where my heart is weak.
Church discipline just means that we lean on one another. It means that we believe sanctification is a group project.
Here are a couple of things I think we should keep in mind as we discipline one another:
1. Lead to conviction. The Gospel is better news than any of us can dream. It really is. There’s no sin too big, no soul too lost. However, the Gospel is great news for the one who knows that they are desperately sick and turns to God for help. It’s not good news for the one who doesn’t think sin is a big deal. It’s not good news for the one whose sin leads them to despair instead of trusting in Jesus.
The kindness of God in our lives is that we feel conviction about sin. We feel this weird tension in our chests that will just wind tighter and tighter until we repent and it is released by trusting deeply in the Gospel.
The problem is, if you and I try to save someone from that tension by minimizing sin, we rob conviction of its great grace and power in our lives. God is kind, but His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance.
When I don’t feel conviction, that is the time and the place for rebuke.
I don’t need my friends to speak cheap grace over me. I need them to remind me of the horror of sin. I need them to pray that I will feel the weight of conviction and the urgent need I have for Jesus.
2. Lead to repentance. In church discipline we do not rebuke the repentant sinner.
Rebuke is a tool to lead to repentance. When someone repents, we worship God. We celebrate. Discipline has served it’s purpose and God has won the day.
And every single time they repent we do the same. We never grow weary of repentance.
Because repeated repentance does not indicate a slow sanctification. It is the mark of sanctification.
3. Lead to Jesus. Nothing should set us free from conviction but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing should remove the feelings of guilt and shame – nothing except Jesus blood. We can’t ease our conscience with good deeds. We must not seek to make one another feel better about our sin by formulating a plan, or managing our behavior, or counting the number of days it’s been since the last ‘incident’.
Not even the riches of God’s kindness can relieve the burden of sin. We need Jesus.
There is nothing between us and God’s righteous anger but the blood of Jesus.
Our role in church discipline is to remind one another of that; to offer one another no hope besides the precious blood in moments of failure.
Look, I know that we live in a generation of individuals who are cynical and burned by the Church. But I will tell you this: you are not going to finish this race alone. You just aren’t going to make it.
God has set up the Church to help you finish. And that doesn’t mean attending a building once a week; it means being in deep and transparent community with people who will lead you to conviction, repentance and faith in the blood of Jesus.
We are one of God’s greatest gifts to each other.