Meaningful Membership: A Pure People

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August 13, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

Hey everyone, thanks for being here today. If you’re a guest, my name is Jeff. I’m one of the pastors here, and we’re wrapping up today three weeks of discussing what we’re calling “meaningful membership”. We take membership at Calvary Baptist Church very seriously. We want you to take membership at Calvary Baptist Church very seriously. So, let me tell you where we’ve been, in order to set up where we’re going today.

Two weeks ago, we talked about being people that are purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. We said that it was God’s great son and his sacrifice on the cross that brought us into God’s family, and because of that, last week we said that we’re supposed to be peculiar people. That word means that there’s something different about us. We’re not like your fraternity. We’re not like the Boys and Girls Club of America. Something is different about these people in this room, and today answers the question: “What’s different about us?”

Well, because we we’re purchased people bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, because we’re peculiar people, we’re different. We’re supposed to live a life that’s pure, that’s holy, set apart for God. By the way, did you know that this goes all the way back to the very first book of the Bible? This is God’s plan for his people, from the time that he met with Abraham back in the book of Genesis. God said, “Abraham, I’m calling you out from among your brothers. I’m going to make you and your family, Abraham, into a special group of people, and your job, Abraham, because of your descendants, all of the nations of the world are going to be blessed. Abraham, this just isn’t for you. This just isn’t for your children, but your children are going to be a blessing to the whole world.” And it was ancient Israel’s job to influence the whole world by the lifestyle that they lived.

By the time you get to the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, Israel hasn’t been doing that, and so God has to remind his people of his mission for his people and the fact that they’re supposed to influence the world. Here’s Isaiah 49, verse 6. Don’t focus on the rest of that verse. I just want you to look at that sentence in the middle. God says to his people, “Is it too light of a thing that you should be my servants to raise up the tribes of Jacob or to bring back the preserved of Israel?” God’s saying, “That’s too easy. I have more for you to do than just that, Israel.” Here’s what God says next: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Did you know that this mission for the church in the Old Testament, these called- out ones from among the nations in the Old Testament, is exactly what the mission of the church in the New Testament is? After the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, now you are part of the family of God, and now you share the same mission that ancient Israel had. Now you share the same mission that Abraham and that his descendants had. -to live pure and to live different, so that when people see you, you’re a light to the nation. I’m going to ask you, “What happens when the church of Jesus Christ doesn’t reflect the glory of God? What happens when the church of Jesus Christ actually gets in the way and prohibits the glory of God?”

I asked the pastors of our church to do a little bit of searching this week to help me find a video about a solar eclipse. It was hard to find, because most videos only focus on the sun, but as you watch this video, I want you to notice what happens to the earth during a solar eclipse. I want you to see what happens when the church of Jesus Christ, which has no glory of itself, no light that we’re able to shine (We just shine forth the glory of God’s great son), what happens when the church gets in the way, what happens when the church blocks the glory of God, what happens when the Church of Jesus Christ stains the name of our great Savior.

Watch what happens on earth when the moon passes before the sun and the moon’s not doing what the moon is supposed to do anymore. Now the moon is actually blocking the glory of the sun. Look at what it looks like in a city when a church isn’t pure. Look at what it looks like in the city when the church doesn’t reflect the glory of God and how dark and how ugly this gets in the city.

This is why, as the people of God, we hurt whenever the church of Jesus Christ, anybody who claims the name of Jesus Christ, does something to dishonor our king. This is why, when a Roman Catholic priest is indicted in some sexual scandal, it breaks our heart too. This is why, when a pastor of another church in another city, in another denomination, runs away and has an affair with his secretary, our heart breaks, because it stains the glory of God. It blocks the glory of God’s great son, and many people who don’t know Jesus are influenced negatively when the church doesn’t live pure or when the church doesn’t live holy.

I want to just make it clear from the very beginning, what we’re talking about today is purity, not perfection. None of us in this room, certainly not me (I’m also talking about you), none of us is perfect. In fact, you don’t have to know the person next to you. I just want you to go and lean over to them and tell them right now, “You’re not perfect.” Go ahead. Say it out loud. You don’t even have to know who they are, because we are all infected with the disease of sin. You know that they are not perfect, and they know that you’re not perfect. We inherited this disease at our birth. We carry this disease with us for the rest of our life. While we’re here on planet Earth, we’re not aiming for perfection. We’re never going to get there.

What we’re aiming for here on planet Earth is purity, and what God wants of his church is for his church to be pure people. I guess you can write it down this way: Jesus makes his church pure now, and then he makes his church perfect later.

That later is when they get to be with him in Heaven, so when you hear what the Bible says today, I don’t want you to hear it through the lens of perfection, because none of us in this room are going to get there. I want you hear it through the lens of purity.

We’re going to have a family conversation, and I want you to think about it back like when your family all got together, those super-awkward conversations when everybody came together in the living room, right? -and somebody in the family messed up, and the brothers and sisters in the family went to the person who messed up, and they tried to show them, “Hey, you messed up. We need you to get this thing right. We need you to admit what you did was wrong, and we need you to make it right.” But the person in the family (let’s say it was your brother), he doesn’t want to hear it. He doesn’t believe that he did anything wrong. “You know what? Forget you. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and you can’t stop me.” So then, mom and dad get the family together, and they say, “Son, you messed up, and because we all have the same last name, your mistake has impacted the whole family, and we need you to admit what you did was wrong, and we need you to try to make it right.”

But still, the son doesn’t care, so then the whole family -and I’m talking aunts, uncles, and grandparents (big family meeting)- all gets together in the living room, and the whole family says, “Dude, what you did was wrong, and we need you to admit it was wrong, and we need you to make it right.” And the son still wants nothing to do with it, still doesn’t admit he did anything wrong at all. What is the family to do next when it gets to that point?

The answer to the question is found in the Bible. It’s found in Matthew chapter 18, and we’re going to spend a few minutes looking at Matthew chapter 18 today, and really, what we’re talking about is church discipline. How does the family handle a son or a daughter who’s gone wayward and living in sin, and they don’t want to admit that what they’re doing is wrong?

I.  Purity is for the growth of the individual

If you’re following along in the paper worship guide, I’d like you to write this down first: Purity is for the growth of the individual. What we’re going to read is about the heart and the soul of the person that made a mistake.

I just want to be honest. Before we get into Matthew 18 for just a few minutes, what we’re referring to here is the holiness of God, and happiness with God is always attached to the holiness like God. If you want to be happy in Jesus, you must be working toward being holy like Jesus. Holiness and happiness are like an old married couple. They cannot be separated, so when somebody’s made a mistake, when somebody’s in sin, and they refuse to admit it, now were doing this for their own good, first and above everything else.

Matthew chapter 18, starting at verse 15, tells you as a church family how to handle somebody in the family who’s done wrong. Here’s what Matthew says:

Matthew 18:15-16
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

Let’s just dissect this first sentence. We’re talking about believers. We’re not talking about somebody who came to church for the first time and is checking out this thing called Christianity, right? We don’t expect as a church for somebody who doesn’t know Jesus personally to live like they know Jesus personally. Of course, somebody who’s not a believer is going to live like a pagan, because they don’t have the Spirit of God inside them. They don’t know how to live. This is for God’s people, part of God’s family. But pay attention to this first sentence, because you’re probably thinking like me, “Well that’s just not fair.” The sentence says you’re in God’s family; you’re part of the church, and somebody in this room just hurt you really, really badly, and you want to sit on your hands and wait for that person to come to you and admit what they did was wrong and say I’m sorry.

That’s what I want, but that’s not what the Bible is telling us to do today. It says you, the person that was hurt, you get up. You go to their house; you go to their living room, and you say, “Man, you hurt me really bad. Here’s what you did, and it hurt me really bad, and I need you to recognize what you did was wrong. And I need you to make it right.” If that person is willing to recognize it, and that person is willing to make it right, then the rest of this verse says, “If the other person listens to you and confesses it, then you’ve won that person back.”

Your starting point is, “I want our relationship to be restored. I’m going to humbly, graciously take the initiative, and I’m going to go to the person that hurt me, and I’m going to lay out for them: This is what happened, and I need you to recognize what you did was wrong, and I need you to make it right.” And if they will immediately recognize what they did was wrong, and if they will admit their sin, if they will repent of their sin and get it right, then you’ve won. This is what we’re aiming for today.

But what happens if they’re unwilling to do that, even after you laid it out for them as clearly as you are able to? -humbly, graciously and with a sincere heart. What do I do next, Jeff?  Well, verse 16 says, “If you’re unsuccessful, take one or two others with you, and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” Other parts of the Bible say to take a mature brother or sister with you, so that you and they don’t fall into the same sin that you’re going to talk about.

You went to their house once, tried to lay out at their house what they did to you that hurt you and that stained the image of King Jesus, and they don’t want to hear you. So now, you grab another mature believer, and you and a brother or sister from our church, you go to their house again a second time. You lay this thing out, and you say, “Look, we’re both trying to tell you we love you, and we want what’s best for you, and we’re both trying to tell you what you did was wrong. We need you to admit it was wrong, and we need you to make it right.”

And if they admit it’s wrong; they make it right, good! You can restore the relationship with one another. In the end, ultimately what we’re trying to do is to bring the family back together again, and when the Bible says, “pointing out what they did was wrong”, it’s the idea of showing somebody something that they may not know. Maybe they just didn’t know they hurt you. Maybe they just didn’t know it was wrong. maybe you opened their eyes for the first time when you went to their house and when you brought this offense to them.

II. Purity is for the good of the church

But, maybe they did know. In fact, maybe they knew, and they didn’t care. What do I do next? Well, purity is for the growth of the individual, but purity is also for the good of the church, and now it gets to be much more of a big family issue.

Before we even look at what the Bible says in verse 17, I want this verse to hit you in the chest like a ton of bricks. -the seriousness of what we’re talking about as the family of God. You went to them privately to their house and said, “What you did was wrong. I need you to admit it, and I need you to make it right.” They don’t care. So, you took some other people from our church with you back to their house, “I need you to admit what you did was wrong. I need you to make it right.” They still don’t care. Here’s what you do next:

Matthew 18:17
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

Now, the idea here is not that you take it to a pastor or to the elders. No, this is much more serious. The idea here is you ask this brother or sister who’s done wrong, “Would you come and stand before our whole church, and as a church, would you let us beg you to recognize what you’ve done is wrong? Would you let us plead with you to make it right, so that you don’t continue to live like this -you don’t continue to act like this?” And if God is gracious, that person would listen to the whole church. They would look in this room and say, “A lot of people in this church love me, and I think they want what’s best for me. So apparently, I have done wrong, and I am going to need to get it right.”

If they still refuse to listen at this point, if they won’t listen to the whole church, now were not talking about a sin issue anymore. Now we’re talking about a soul issue. I mean, it’s the role of the Holy Spirit of the Living God to convict a man or a woman of sin. I can’t do that for them. You can’t do that for them. It’s the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses a man or a woman, that changes their soul, that makes them want to be in fellowship with God and in fellowship with God’s people. And if that stuff isn’t happening inside their soul, if they can just persist in sin and not care about it, even after it’s gotten to this point, now we have to wonder: What’s really going on inside your soul? Do you really even know Jesus Christ personally? Can you really claim that he’s your Savior?

The truth is, what Matthew 18 is saying for us today is, anyone should be able to go to any other brother or sister in this church and say, “What you did was a sin, and I need you to recognize it, and I need you to make it right. Look, in your family, who can point out that somebody’s messing up? Who can say to you before you make a terrible mistake that you’re going to regret it forever?  Who has the authority in your family to tell you you’re about to mess up really badly? Is it just mom and dad, or is it anybody in the family who can go to you and say, “Hey, what you’re doing is wrong, and you’re about to ruin your life.”

I like the way that Pastor Alan Smith put it this week about these verses. He said, “You don’t need to give anybody else in this church permission to hold you accountable. If you are a covenant member of this church, you have given hundreds of people permission already to hold you accountable, and their permission comes directly from the Word of God. And it’s their goal to help correct and train and a rebuke you, if necessary, to point out your mistakes or your failures, if necessary, to prevent you from ruining your life.”

God is really, really serious about the purity of his church, because it is the church of Jesus Christ that is the bride of Christ, that has been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, been made pure and will one day be united with Christ in Heaven. And God wants his church to be holy and to look and to act different, but you’ve gotten to this whole point of taking it to the church, and that person still doesn’t care. Well, here is the unfortunate point that we are now.

III. Purity is for the glory of Christ

Purity is also for the glory of Christ, and what happens next is about the family of God, about the glory of God, about the team of God, and it is much more important than the individual. Mia Hamm, probably one of the greatest women’s soccer players in American history, said this about being part of the team: She said, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on my team. I defer to my team, and I sacrifice for my team, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” And what we do when we exercise discipline on members of the church is for the growth of the individual, for the good of the church, but it’s also for God’s great family; it’s for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Many of us are familiar with these words, and many have used these verses out of context and caused them to mean something that they just don’t mean. Listen to what Jesus says about the power and the authority of his church here on earth:

Matthew 18:18-20
I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. 19 I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.

Many people have taken this last verse and tried to make it mean something that Scripture does not mean. God is saying, “I have called my people out from among the crowds. I’ve set them apart to live different, and when my people come together in a sacred assembly, when my church meets together, what’s happening here on earth is a picture, a moment in time, of what’s going to happen forever in Heaven.”

So, when my church affirms somebody’s faith here on earth, that person, their faith, is affirmed in Heaven. When my church, as a whole, denies that somebody really is a follower of Jesus Christ here on earth, then chances are, that person really isn’t a follower of Jesus Christ, and they’re not going to end up in Heaven.

It’s when two or three come together in a sacred assembly, Jesus says that I’m in their midst. And by the way, Jesus only uses the word church twice that we have record of in the Bible: The first time is when the great statement that Peter makes about Jesus as Lord and Savior, and Jesus says, “Peter, that statement is the rock that I’m going to use to build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” And the second time is here. Jesus says, “Let me tell you about the authority and the power of my church. When my church affirms somebody’s faith here on earth, it is affirmed in Heaven. When my church denies somebody’s faith here on earth, it is denied in Heaven.” -meaning you’re probably not on your way to Heaven if the people of your church cannot affirm that you really do know Jesus Christ personally.

Let’s go back to the issue of this son or this daughter who is in open sin and feels no remorse, no regret whatsoever about their sin. At the point that it comes before the whole church, the church has no choice but to say, “We can no longer affirm that this brother or this sister really does know Christ personally, and now we have to start to treat them like they have never heard the gospel before. Now, we have to start to treat them like they need Jesus for the first time, because people who are called out and set apart as different don’t act like this. They feel remorse; they feel regret for their sin.

At Calvary Baptist Church, we have four steps to practicing church discipline. I want you to write these four things down. If you have your mobile app, open it. Put these in the personal notes, and then email them to yourself. If you’re following along on paper, I want you to write these four words down. They all start with the letter “R”.

If you mess up, if I am in sin, the first step in this process is that somebody comes to me and they ask me to repent. That just means admit what I did was wrong. If you’re in sin and it’s a public sin, then we expect somebody in this room, another brother or sister, to go to your house and to ask you to repent and at least admit that this is a sin, and what you did was wrong.

And then the next step comes naturally from that. Because you’ve recognized what you did was wrong, you’re going to try to make it right. The word reconcile means that as much as you’re able to, try to fix what it is that you did wrong. We always start with this goal in repenting and reconciliation. The goal in recognizing what I did was wrong and making it right is step three. Once you’ve done those things, now we can restore you, and by restore, I mean now we don’t hold any grudges. Now we forgive you. Now we don’t bring it up anymore. It’s in the past. You have showed godly contrition. You’ve showed that your heart is tender to the Holy Spirit, and you’ve tried to make it right, and so were just gonna treat it like nothing happened in order to bring you back into fellowship in the family.

But if we go through this first step (one person goes to you directly), we go to the second step (more than one person goes to you directly, and you’re unwilling to repent; you’re not willing to reconcile), if we bring it to the church in this third step and you’re still unwilling to reconcile -still unwilling to even repent and admit what you did was wrong- now as a church, we don’t have a choice. Now, we have to go to step four, which is regeneration. Now we have to talk about you being born again, because now we can no longer affirm that you really know Jesus Christ as Savior at all. Now, we have no choice but to say maybe you’re not on your way to Heaven it all, brother. Maybe you’re not of genuine follower of Jesus Christ, sister, because people that are born again don’t act like this at this point, and now we have no choice but to remove you from the roles of membership at Calvary Baptist Church, because you can’t be a member if you’re not a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. And we’re not going to cast you out the doors. We’re not going to kick you out. We’re going to start to treat you like you don’t know Jesus and start to all over again to talk to you about your soul and about salvation, because this is no longer sin issue. Now it’s the soul issue, and we’re not sure where you’re going to spend eternity.

This isn’t like when somebody gets up and leaves our church, and the family scatters around, like when Travis Moore leaves to go to college and part of our family leaves or when Denise and David Countrymen move away to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and part of our family leaves. That hurts, but they’re still part of the family. This is, now we can no longer call you part of our family, ‘cause if you’re not a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, you can’t be part of this family, and we cannot affirm that you really are a sincere follower of Jesus Christ. Your actions show otherwise.

Here’s what I’m saying, church. This is so serious. This is Heaven and Hell serious, and as a church, you must be willing to take the initiative, to be the person who will go to the offender and say, “Hey, what you did was wrong. I need you to admit it was wrong. I need you to try to make it right, because we want to restore you, but we can’t restore you until you’re willing to do those things, and if you won’t do that, then, now I have to start talking to you about whether or not you know Jesus at all as your Savior.”

This is the language that Matthew 18 is teaching us today, and when we take the Lords Supper, there is an aspect that I want you to consider about family relationships. We show you a video before the service every time we do the Lord’s Supper, and we say there’s a relationship aspect that has to be right when you do this. ‘Right between you and God, but there’s also a relationship aspect that needs to be right between you and other people. This was so important of a deal that we just took a brand-new lap, another lap in the Luther 500 series.

Go to our website. Check out the blog this week. Pastor Michael King did a blog about a church reformer by the name of John Calvin, who lived in a city where men were in open sin, and they demanded to take part in the ordinances of the church. The two ordinances that the church does collectively are the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. These libertines believed, “I can do whatever I want, and nobody in the church can stop me.” -to the point that when John Calvin stepped in to prevent them from taking the Lord’s Supper, because they were open sin, these libertines threatened the pastor with his life. Calvin said, “You will kill me before I let you stain the glory of Christ and come to the Lord’s table in open sin.”

So, what we do as a church is, we say, would you please examine your heart between you and God? Would you please examine your heart between you and other people, and if something isn’t right, just don’t do this today. We’re not the church who’s gonna look down her nose at you. In fact, if somebody abstains today, we’re going to pray for that brother or sister. We’re going to ask God to convict them and to help them to reconcile and to restore them to fellowship. This is really an opportunity for God’s people to come to God’s table and to practice communion, or fellowship, with each other and with a holy God. -by being pure people, the people that are set apart and look different.

Next Steps

• I want to be a part of Jesus’s family. Today, I turn from my sin and surrender to him for the first time.

– Someone in the church has hurt me. I commit today to start the conversation with them.

+ I want to be part of a pure church. Therefore, I willingly submit to the discipline of this church if necessary.

Discussion Questions

  1. Were you disciplined as a child? If so, what method did your parents use to discipline you? What did their discipline teach you?
  2. Read Hebrews 12:5-9. What does God’s discipline teach us about how God feels toward us?
  3. What does the purity of the church say about Jesus and the gospel?
  4. Does the church play a role in its members’ salvation? Explain your answer.
  5. If you can be kicked out of other clubs, should you be able to be kicked out of membership in a church? Explain your answer.
  6. What does the phrase “take it to the church” mean? How have you seen that practiced in the past?
  7. Confess your sins to each other today. Commit to holding each other accountable.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...