My dear fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the commitments that I made with God and to myself as I begin, what I believe is a new journey in Christ, is that I would not intervene or take on any battles, controversies, or debates that are not directly given to me by God. Many email alerts, letters, phone calls, suggestions and ideas, come across my desk from those who seek to involve me in things that are really none of my business. God is in charge. I really believe this. None of the activities on earth take place without His consent. It is also clear in the word of God that above all things God loves people. All people. He died for people. Because of the sincerity and dedication of many of the people involved in this recent discussion, the Lord has impressed me to weigh in.
This morning I received a phone call from a young man who I was instrumental in bringing into the Seventh-day Adventist church. He immediately asked me if I had heard about the controversy surrounding a very popular first-day minister that is to speak at one of our leading colleges.
I asked him how—as a Bible worker in a crusade—this particular situation was helping him to be more effective. He said, “It is more of a distraction than anything else to me, the local pastor, and the team. That’s all that is being talked about today and it has become very negative.”
“Then leave this matter in the hands of God,” I said, “and get back to knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel.”
It is very clear that we are living in a time in earth's history that calls for revival and reformation. The need to call sin by its right name is not seasonal nor has there ever been a time on this side of the flood when the comfort of sin and rebellion is more evident, even among God’s people. However, those who God calls to do the specific work of calling out sin and correcting problems must be very careful not to become ensnared with the devices of Satan by deviating from the specific methods that God outlines in dealing with people. As Christians, called by God to represent Jesus Christ’s character, our methods and dealings with mankind must clearly match those biblical examples from our Saviour’s life.
The first step is outlined in Matthew 18:15: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” The most important part of this verse is “thou hast gained thy brother.” God’s whole purpose in reproving or dealing with anyone is for their personal salvation, not “to protect His church” or “our interest.”
Examine this statement from the pen of inspiration: “Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self-dignity, and even lay down your life in order to save an erring brother, have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help your brother” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, 128-129.
Sacrifice your own self-dignity? Lay down your life for the one in the wrong? Is God serious? Yes. This is a clear statement from the Holy Spirit referring to the qualifications of one of His reformers before they are granted His permission to go forth.
Keep in mind God’s only purpose in sending forth a reformer or a corrector is for the salvation of men. Now, please examine the remaining part of this statement: “No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction” Ibid 129.
How many Seventh-day Adventists who felt offended by the remarks of this first day minister tried to personally reach out to him and seek clarification on his remarks? In keeping with Galatians 6:1, if God places the burden on you, He will also make the way for you to follow His instructions in dealing with the one who is in error.
In 1 Kings 21, God gave Elijah a burden about a wrong that Ahab committed. God then caused Elijah to confront Ahab, face-to-face, in that garden. Elijah did not seek out a committee or a board; he showed up alone. If God, who is the same today, yesterday and forever, places a special burden of reform on one of His modern day Elijahs, He will also provide the means for that person to carry out God’s burden by the same method.
As I reflect on my personal life, I see that this was the missing link in my dealings with many people—not strictly following Christ’s method. I did not value the person as Christ valued them; I did not love the people in a manner where I would have sacrificed my “own self-dignity” or “even lay down” my “life in order to save an erring brother,” and this created unnecessary problems. If I had done the same thing following Christ’s method, the results would have been far different. That doesn’t necessarily mean all the persons involved would have accepted the counsel, but the rejection would have in no way been linked to my un-Christlike approach.
Secondly, the text puts deep emphasis on privacy: “between thee and him alone.” “… it is to the wrongdoer himself that we are to present the wrong. We are not to make it a matter of comment and criticism among ourselves; nor even after it is told to the church, are we at liberty to repeat it to others. A knowledge of the faults of Christians will be only a cause of stumbling to the unbelieving world; and by dwelling upon these things, we ourselves can receive only harm; for it is by beholding that we become changed. While we seek to correct the errors of a brother, the Spirit of Christ will lead us to shield him, as far as possible, from the criticism of even his own brethren, and how much more from the censure of the unbelieving world. We ourselves are erring, and need Christ's pity and forgiveness, and just as we wish Him to deal with us, He bids us deal with one another” The Desire of Ages, 440-441.
How can Christ or His church be glorified by someone bringing the church’s personal problems to the attention of the world? Christ weeps when He sees His children publicly posting conference, church, individual sins, problems or disagreements on the World Wide Web without thought or concern for who sees.
When I was a child, my mother would not discuss any and every family problem in front of the children. Did it make us any less a part of the family? No. It was because our parents loved, cared, and wanted to protect us that we missed out in those discussions. These were items that we were not mature enough to handle. Would not this principle apply even more to the new believers and those weaker in the faith? What about someone who is on the verge of making a decision to join this movement and they stumble across such negativity? Would not this principle apply even more to new believers not to mention those who are on the verge of making a decision to join this God-ordained movement?
This public display is clearly not in keeping with this statement which was referred to earlier: “[Don’t] make it a matter of comment and criticism among ourselves; nor even after it is told to the church, are we at liberty to repeat it to others.” Even David exclaimed in 2 Samuel 1:20, “Tell [it] not in Gath, publish [it] not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.”
Well, what do we do now? We stop, take a deep breath, and individually go before God, and ask Him if and where we may have participated in any conversations, internet postings, or activities that were not in keeping with His council. Jesus loves us so much that He will personally respond to the honest inquiry and make clear to each individual what steps to take from here.
We serve a wonderful Saviour. Our Father in heaven loves us more than we could ever imagine and He knows that His children often err with the best intentions.
May God help us to be ready to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, finish our individual assignments, and go home to live with the lovely Jesus!
PS Click here to read the full article referenced above.