Facing Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin in Fellow Believers

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In Fellow Believers

1 Corinthians 5 reminds us how to deal with sin in the world, but the point of that passage is to talk about how to deal with sin in the body of believers. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are putting ourselves to a spiritual death through belief in His death and resurrection. As a part of that, we become enslaved to righteous living through commitment to obeying Him.

This is our choice. It’s not forced and, as long as we keep our belief in Jesus as our Savior, we don’t lose our salvation for messing up (I know, there’s a lot of theological points around this topic that not all people will agree with that. It’s where I stand though, so please don’t destroy me in your need to present your opinions as right.) That being said, Paul expects the people who claim allegiance to Jesus to follow certain lifestyle choices to living uprightly and honestly (Romans 6:1-2).

In chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a situation where someone is claiming to be a follower of Christ, but is happily living a sin-filled lifestyle. Paul doesn’t take it well. He says, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.”

Paul isn’t the only one who feels strongly about hypocrisy. Jesus himself was very harsh on the Pharisees for their overly-pious version of hypocrisy. One example of many is from Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

This sounds great in light passing of the topic. Sure, hypocrisy is bad and we shouldn’t hang out with Christians who say one thing and do another. This can be a much more sensitive and hurt-filled matter when we’re dealing with a loved one or friend in our life who is in this situation. We must handle it with wisdom, first going to them in love and concern, as spelled out in Galatians 6:1-2.

The other thing we must keep in mind in this situation is that this is not talking about every time we make mistakes. We’d all be kicked out at some point if that were the issue.

Habitual sins are ones that we fall into over and over and struggle to break. They are strongholds that we must fight against repeatedly till we can learn to truly hand them over to God and let Him fully defeat it. It takes strength and courage to fight a battle over and over, when you feel like you should be able to just “be good” like everyone else. Habitual sins and hypocrisy are not the same thing.

The difference between them is that being a Christian doesn’t mean getting everything right all the time. It means, knowing you’re a sinner and relying on the grace of Christ, both of which require us to be honest about our sin and what we’re fighting. Real hypocrisy is when a person is choosing a sin that the person knows is wrong, has been talked to by friends and church leaders about how it’s wrong, and still lives that way. They do all this while claiming they have a close relationship with Christ and are His devoted follower.

Hypocrisy says, I know what’s right and what’s wrong and I’m going to do what’s wrong while still claiming I’m right and ok. Hypocrisy is the ultimate level of denial because if you’re not doing anything wrong, you can’t ever start getting it right. Hypocrisy is the dead end of spiritual arrogance. As long as you’re in that place, you are dying spiritually and probably aren’t aware of it.

Hypocrisy is serious, but so is all sin. As we face each and every form of it, we can be grateful that God provided us the guidelines to help us understand how to respond appropriately and in love no matter what.

Facing Sin in the World

Sin in the World

Sin comes at us in several different ways and how we should react is different based on how it comes. These ways are: in ourselves, in the world, and in fellow believers. Each one brings its own challenges and difficulties and must be handled in different ways.

In the World

The world is full of sin: unapologetic, wayward sin. As Christians who have experienced the morning of sin in our hearts, the repentance of sin in our self, and the ongoing process of finding and removing sin in our lives, we can easily forget that the sin in the world hasn’t met it’s Maker yet. The people are in a range of states that goes from never having experienced God to fully aware and choosing to reject His voice.

Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5 about how to handle sin in the world. He’s dealing with a sin issue in the church at Corinth and he’s talking about how to address it within the body. First, he reminds them of this, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). In other words, the world is bad and you can’t get away from it.

He goes on later to say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” Our job is to reach out the fallen and lost and offer them an example of the beauty of salvation through Christ. We can’t judge them for living in sin when they are under full sway of the law of death, as Paul talks about in Romans 6:20.

Sin is harmful, both to the ones doing it and everyone around them. There are times in our lives when we set boundaries for ourselves and our families to keep the harmful effects of sin away. For example, we may limit the movies we see or the music we listen to. Setting protective boundaries is different that judging the world and trying to make everyone look and act like you even if they don’t claim Jesus as their Savior.

We know that sin will be defeated by God in the end. The Bible says that all will bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord, but we don’t know when. Until then, we wait patiently as the sin around us ripens and prepares for the judgement that the Lord will bring on it.

Fearing God the World Around - Isaiah 59:19

The Heart of God For Us

Isaiah 59 is a beautiful section of scripture that shows us that the heart of God is justice and love and the blessings through the grace of Jesus that He wants to shower on us.

For the sake of this discussion, I’m dividing up these two chapters into these sections:

  • 59:1-2 – The problem
  • 59:3-8 – The sins
  • 59:10-15 – The consequences
  • 59:16-20 – The response

The Problem

The passage opens in 59:1-2 with a clear statement of the issue. God doesn’t mince words or make us wonder what the issue is; He spells it out clearly and tells us exactly where the struggle is from: sin. He says our sins is what have separated us from God and kept Him from responding to us. God is just and He must deal with our sin. There is no way around it. He can’t ignore it or minimize it or excuse it. He must deal with it.

Because this is the root of the trouble, we must be willing to deal with sin. We have to be able to admit that we’re in trouble (separated from God) and that we are unable to come back into His presence on our own (Romans 3:23). Later on in this passage, we will see what it takes to deal with sin, or more accurately, who will take it.

The Sins

The next few verses (59:3-8) go more in detail about what sins are being committed. Often in our lives a simple, “I’m a sinner” admission won’t help us understand the depth and the seriousness of our actions. We need to be able to talk about what the trouble is, specifically. The more specific, the more aware we are of the separation and the more thoroughly the grace of God can come in and clean out are hearts and mind.

This passage is showing here the depth of the sin that Isaiah was seeing. God is about to promise some amazing things and we need to know that these promises weren’t born out of amazing obedience or the goodness of His followers. These promises came from the darkest of moments when sin was more prominent than not.

The Consequences

God doesn’t sugar coat and try to make us feel better about making wrong choices. He knows that His way is life and all others ways are death. He makes that clear in the next section (59:10-15). Every choice has consequences and we need to understand that our sin brings harm to others around us and our obedience blesses them (Job 35:8).

Reminding us of the depth of the consequences is also setting the stage for us to see the beauty of the height that He will lift us. Sin is a compounding mess of struggles and troubles, sometimes for us, sometimes for the people we’re hurting. Either way, when God lifts us up, He lifts completely out of it and grants us blessing outside of anything we could earn.

The Response

The next section shows us what happens when it’s time for God to deal with the trouble (59:16-20). He’s seen the innocent suffering from the disobedient, He’s heard the overly pious giving lip service, and the list of sins is only growing. How He responds show us deep truths about God’s nature.

In verse 16, God saw that there was no one to intercede for the sinning and the suffering. Did He yell at them and tell them to get their act together? Did He say, “Too bad for you! Should have listened to me!” No! He saw them lacking and He stepped in Himself to save them. In verse 17, we see God as a passionate protector and defender. He didn’t just do this out of obligation and because He didn’t have anything more interesting on His schedule. He puts on righteousness and salvation as armor and zeal and vengeance are wrapped around Him like a cloak. In verse 18, those who sinned and caused suffering will be repaid, God will deal with those who have fought against His name.

Why is He doing this? Because we must be taught a lesson? No, He isn’t that kind of petty god. He is doing this for one reason: so that the world will see His glory (v. 19).

As if justice and salvation aren’t enough, God takes it even one step further: He promises a future of salvation and a covenant of remembrance. Right here, in the midst of the sin and the troubles and the problem, what God gives as a gift is that He will send a Redeemer (Jesus!) and His words and His spirit will not leave the people.

Mind. Blown.

What a great and loving God to not just throw out all the troublesome people and just leave this place to the bears, kangaroos, and elephants. He renews His promise that the children of Israel will be His people for always, and does it right when He has no reason to do so.

This is our message of hope: God saved us by the blood of Jesus Christ because of who He is and for that reason alone. We have done nothing to earn our salvation, and we never will be able to. God offers salvation to us freely and completely and the word of this news will never leave us forevermore. To Him and Him alone be all the glory and praise.

God Alone Judges Me - 1 Corinthians 4:4

God Alone Will Judge Me

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 holds a powerful truth about how to view ourselves, and, by extension, how to view others. Paul says here that he doesn’t feel like he’s guilty, he doesn’t care what others think of him, but that’s not his standard. The only opinion that matters is God’s.

There are two things that jump out to me about these verses. First, Paul doesn’t allows his own impression of himself to be the ultimate opinion. Paul doesn’t think there’s anything that he needs to repent of or deal with at this time, but he doesn’t therefore claim he’s perfect and without fault. He simply leaves his correction and judgement in the Lord’s hands.

So often we think that our view of ourselves is what determines how God will view us. This is completely not true. God views us through the lens of the sacrifice of Jesus and He continually calls us to more sanctification through knowing Him. How He judges us has nothing to do with how we feel about where we are in that process.

This is a different thing, by the way, than conviction that leads to repentance. We often have things in us that are hindering our walk with the Lord and they can’t stay. We have to acknowledge them and work through them in order to be closer to Him. This may mean changes in habits or restoring or building up relationships. Whatever that kind of obedience is, it’s different than what Paul talks about here.

The judgement that Paul talks about here is referring to making value statements about our walk with the Lord. Value statements seem to be very popular among the human race; we like to determine what is good, better and best. However, that’s the kind of judgement that Paul is saying he doesn’t have. He doesn’t make value statements about his relationship with the Lord, instead he trust that the Lord will take care of that. He is living the best and most honest life he can (that’s the clear conscious part).

Once we understand that our judgement in front of the Lord will be by His standards and not by how we are feeling about ourselves, it’s even easier to understand the other point Paul makes here. He says, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”

In order to judge ourselves, we have to have something to hold it up against. Usually, whether or not we admit it, we are using other people as the standard that we compare ourselves against. We look at our best friends walk and feel better about our prayer life. We look at the lady at church and we feel bad about our testimonies. Whatever it is, we are determining our feeling about our walk only in the light of what others are doing.

But let’s look at where Paul is at. He doesn’t judge himself and he doesn’t care what others think of him. When our standard of behavior isn’t other people, there’s no reason to worry about what they’re saying about us. When we trust that Lord will convict us of what we need to change and we know that we’re walking daily with Him, the world’s opinion of us can be whatever they want it to be. We know the truth that is setting us free: The only who can judge me is God. No one else, not even myself, can do it, only God. Anyone who looks at me and makes a value statement about my spiritual walk is walking in lies. We who know the truth can smile and say, “God is my judge, and that’s more than enough.”