During my recent trip to India I participated in an Ask Me Anything event and was asked a couple of questions I thought might be of interest to you. One concerned practicing church discipline and the other how to avoid the temptation to be a man-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. Here are my answers to both of these questions.
How do you overcome the desire for the approval of a man?
So, one of my constant prayers is that I would be a God pleaser, not a man pleaser. And I know my temptation, I know the temptation of my heart is to want the approval of man. That’s very important to me in my flesh so, I have to be very, very careful there and have just a clear awareness and a continual awareness that if I’m not really, really guarding my heart, I’ll do whatever it takes to make people love me or to make it seem like people love me. And I will even do that at the expense of what God calls me to do. So I’m aware of that and that’s something I have to pray about a lot.
I’ve realized over the last little while, as a writer, maybe over the last year or two that I’ve gotten scared. And it feels to me like, writing ten or twelve years ago was very different from today. Whereas I think before we were able to have reasonable discussion about issues in which we disagreed. Today it seems like we can’t anymore. And I just, I don’t like the drama that comes with writing today, especially writing about certain topics. So I found myself shying away in some ways that I actually don’t think are good. Because of the position I’m in, I have an ability to speak, but I’m just feeling afraid to speak. And I think in some ways it’s because there’s voices out there that are so loud and so angry, and yet so trusted that some people are allowing, that like myself, are just allowing ourselves to be sort of pushed to the side and to not speak what we know to be true.
So, I’m battling that in my own mind. What should I speak about? And, would the Lord have me speak about this but I’m actually just too scared to do it? I don’t want to be in that position. I also don’t want to be in the position where I feel I need to speak to everything, especially things I really don’t know anything about, which, I mean there’s a lot where I really don’t have a lot of knowledge and don’t have anything much to contribute to the conversation.
So, yes, I’ve been feeling some of that fear lately and then that growing conviction that fear is starting to control me and that fear is actually just motivated by fear of man, right, by the desire to look good in the eyes of man. So, I have people that I think will speak into my life, who will help me understand that and who will tell me if I am operating out of fear, if they believe I’m operating out of fear. And I’ve just been praying about that one a lot and trusting that the Lord will give me clarity and give me courage.
How do you know when it is the right time to practice church discipline?
Yes, we at our church believe strongly in membership. We want to have very meaningful membership, which means that there’s a covenant you take as you come into membership. And that includes stipulations that if you fall into sin, you will potentially be, fall under the discipline of the church, which is done for the purposes of restoration, to purify the church, but we’re hoping to restore that person, that the process of discipline will draw that person back.
Church discipline is something we do seldom and we do slowly and with a great desire to really undertake it in such a way that we draw that person back. So, you don’t want to be afraid to bring discipline to bear.
If somebody has committed a sin that is public and known. If somebody is living in a way that’s rebellious. If somebody is just, they clearly turned their back on the Lord, theologically even, bringing division in the church. We want to put that person under the discipline of the church, but when people come to us as elders and they have questions, we always want them to take the lead on that. So, we as elders, it’s not our job as elders to solve all those things, it’s not our job to be involved until the second or third step of church discipline.
And so, if people come to us and say what about this person, we’ll say, you approach that person. If that person is sinning and you’re aware of it, you go to your brother and you appeal to him. You minister God’s truth to him and show him where he’s wrong and call him to repentance. If he doesn’t, find somebody else. Take another person and the two of you go and confront him. And if he still won’t repent, then you come to us. Those first two steps can take weeks or months. If that sin isn’t directly terribly affecting the church, if it’s not causing terrible division or discord within the church, we’re content usually to let it go on for a time and trust, sometimes the Word of God works a little slower than we’d like, right. As people are praying, as people are bringing truth to that person, as they’re calling that person to repent, we want to give them time. But our confidence is that God has given the church discipline process for the purpose of either restoring people who are truly saved but have fallen into sin, or identifying people who for a time were part of the church, but have proven they’re not believers.
So, we have to have tremendous confidence in the process that God has given us and then faithfully follow it even to the conclusion of removing people from the membership of the church. And we should be very clear here, the Bible lays out essentially two different kinds of discipline. There’s, somebody has fallen into sin, is one kind, and somebody’s trying to destroy the church through division, is another kind. We’re usually talking, somebody has fallen into sin, and in that case, if we remove that person from membership, we are not saying, we will have nothing more to do with you, we’re not saying, get away from us and never come back. We’re just saying, we’re removing your membership because we can no longer say with confidence that you are a Christian. We love you, we want you to turn to Christ, and we say, we want to welcome you back into the membership of this church, but first, we need to see that you’re actually, you’ve become a believer. So it’s important that we don’t conflate those two so that we treat somebody as a… We cast somebody off when really they simply need to hear the Word and be saved.