May 5, 2010
I’m struggling, wrestling to understand and practice an important part of my role as a pastor and brother-in- Christ. How do I confront sin in other people’s life? How do I encourage people in the process of transformation by God? Transformation is a process of the Holy Spirit and it is his work, not ours. But as a shepherd of his people, he’s given me a role. How do I know? God’s Word tells me to:
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV)
So, when I observe actions in others that are not right, I am called to use God’s Word to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. Jesus also warned me elsewhere to care for my own sin first.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42 NIV)
I must remember that sin is sin whether it is sexual immorality, pride, greed, etc. I must come humbly and gently, realizing that the same process of transformation through God’s grace in me is what I long to assist in others. I must come with great patience and careful instruction, realizing that transformation is a process that takes place over time. This is hard to do in an “I want immediate results” society! However, he who began a good work in us promises that he will be faithful to complete it. The goal of righteous living is to display the glory of Christ, to live a life that is pleasing to him, that is, a life of obedience motivated out of love for him. This is a life-long process.
Too often, Christianity has been formulized as a list of “don’ts” causing Christians live in this world of paralyzing guilt, trying to measure up to God’s standard and living a false life in front of each other in order to cast the picture that, “I have it all together.” Unfortunately, this is hypocritical. How refreshing to be around people that instead openly confess, “I don’t have it all together – help!” I think it is a proper understanding of the gospel of grace that helps us get to this latter place of honesty. My role then as a pastor and fellow sojourner is to keep the central thing the central thing, helping my people to understand who they are in Christ and then to live that way. The journey of transformation, also called sanctification, is not one of just “trying harder.” Yes, it involves effort on our part, but the motivation for that effort comes from the renewal of our minds – namely proper thinking.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
Abstaining from sexual immorality (the issue in this case) is a command given in God’s Word. We renew our minds by filling it with God’s Word. Then and only then do we come to know God, love God and because of our love for him strive to do that which is his good, pleasing and perfect will. The Scriptures remind us that, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” (1 John 5:3-4 NIV). Of course we discover that it is also good, pleasing and perfect for us to obey. There is no greater joy on earth that can compare to this. This is not burdensome at all, but in fact quite the opposite – completely freeing!
Father, help me to confront sin boldly, but with grace and humility and love and patience. Help me to first confront it in my own life so that I may see clearly in order to help others confront it. I trust that your Holy Spirit goes ahead of me convicting people of sin. I am reminded that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance. That kindness is given to us in Christ Jesus. May my efforts be carried out with kindness and perceived as such. I can’t do this without your help. Amen.