I heard a teaching by Charles Stanley called “Living Clean in a Dirty World.” It was a wonderful message, so great that I ordered it on CD and have listened to it multiple times and have even given some of you a copy of it. I wanted further insight into it, so I emailed Pastor Scott Mitchell and asked him his thoughts on interpretation. That was a while ago, but this particular chapter has continued to minister to me about many different aspects of my life.
One part was, what happens when someone you care about goes forward at church and accepts Christ, but then walks out the church door and you see no change in their lifestyle? What if they continue to get drunk, or be sexually immoral, live with their boyfriend/girlfriend etc- do you have to refuse to dine with them? What if they are your best friend from childhood? Or someone you really believe you could have a great influence on by continuing to dine with them? Was this scripture telling me I had to cut off ties from loved ones who claimed to be saved but continued living in sin?
The thought of cutting ties with people I care deeply about grieves my heart. I was torn in two. I wanted to be obedient to God’s word, but I also believed I could be a witness in their life if I did not cut off ties. I mean, were they even really saved? Had they meant the prayer they said asking Jesus in their heart? For me, what it came down to is the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, the parable of the sower and the fact that I should never judge someone’s salvation. I know that a good tree can not bear bad fruit and a bad tree can not bear good fruit. I know that I should judge a branch by its fruit. I know that I should not judge the world-they have no power over sin. So I learned that by praying for God to take people out of my life who could be a hindrance or a snare to my walk, and by trusting Him to bring the people into my life who would edify, exhort, and admonish me, and the people who He chose to reach through me, covered the whole issue. God knew my heart and that I wanted to be obedient to His calling and He would give me discernment and guidance to each individual situation.
What really caught my eye today was how the Corinthians were boasting of the sexual sin. This is the church and they were boasting about sin. Yikes, right? And it was like they had no idea that sin spreads like wildfire. That a little yeast levens a whole loaf. So I had to think, am I conscious of that? Any sin that I have let slip into my own life-maybe something I have even boasted about not realizing it was sin-could corrupt and spread through the body. What an awful thought. And what a wonderful reminder to me today how serious sin is and how it makes perfect sense why we need exhortation. Paul was exhorting the Corinthians, they could not see the sin if they were openly boasting about it in the church! Sometimes we can be blind and really have no idea that we are in sin, or sinning. It just struck me how important it is to be open to exhortation, to welcome it, and to be held accountable. I want to grow in my walk and I want to be exhorted and held accountable so I am never blind to the sin in my life. That is why fellowship with Christians is so important.
Exhorting one another in love can be so hard to do. I once heard it said that you know you are exhorting someone in love if it hurts you more to say it than it does for the person to hear it. But we know that wounds from a sincere friend are more valuable than many kisses from an enemy. So this ministered to me because I want more exhortation in my life and can really see the need. So anyone reading this who I am somewhat close with knows that I am huge on confronting an issue and talking it through. I want to make it a point for people to feel comfortable doing the same to me. If the Corinthians were so blind to their sin that they were boasting about it in the church, I know I can certainly be blind as well and fall into the same trap. I don’t want to do that. I want to be held accountable.
Another part of this scripture that really ministered to me today was at the end when Paul stated we are to judge sin in the church. Honestly, I struggle with that. If I see something and think someone is acting sinful, immediately I hear a voice saying- “no you are being sinful, you are being judgemental. you should not judge the brethren.” Then its a battle inside of me. Well am I judging? Am I being critical? Or is God giving me discernment? And if God is giving me discernment, am I supposed to pray about speaking to my friend about what I see going on in their life? Then the paralyzing words come back at me, saying I am not to judge. I began wondering how many times in my life God wanted me to exhort but I was paralyzed by the lie of the enemy that I am not to judge sin. What I read today really exhorted me to start calling sin what it is: sin. And if I see something, I am to pray for an opportunity from God to take the proper actions (going to the brother/sister in love and sharing my concern), trusting that if it is His Will He will ordain the conversation.
So, that might be something that comes easy to you who read this. I’m not sure, but it’s not so for me. I have a really really hard time saying anything that could cause someone hurt or discomfort- and with exhortation that often happens. I was convicted when I read that today. That is why I titled it Accountability in Christian Fellowship- I want to be exhorted in love and held accountable, and I need to do my part and hold those accountable who give me permission to speak into their lives. So that is my take and insight on how 1 Cor. 5 ministered to me.