This sermon is all about church discipline and fighting against legalism. I have to be honest -- legalism seems to happen so naturally in Christianity. I've been there and said some things I shouldn't have, and still do. In the sermon, though, Joseph apologizes to non-Christians for those of us who have expected them to act like Christians. That's key, and I didn't really begin to learn that lesson until I heard this song by Emery:
Why should we expect people to adhere to Christian rules if they are not Christians? Maybe, instead of worrying about enforcing rules for living, we focus on loving people and let God change hearts and behavior, in His time? There's some good notes below.
Here's the scripture:
Matthew 18:15-20 - “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
And some notes (sorry they're in all caps -- I was at work when I listened to this and was doing something with my caps lock on):
- WRITTEN TO A JEWISH AUDIENCE
- IN CONTEXT, LOOK AT VERSES BEFORE -- CHURCH DISCIPLINE
- JESUS IS ONLY TALKING TO THE FAMILY ("BROTHERS")
- JESUS IS ASKING US TO GO BEYOND CONVENTION, TO CALL EACH OTHER OUT
- REAL HELP HAPPENS WHEN WE GET REAL WITH EACH OTHER
- ONE-ON-ONE IS WHERE THIS HAPPENS MOST
- WHEN PEOPLE AREN'T HONEST, IT CREATES GOSSIP (A TOOL OF THE ENEMY)
- THIS ISN'T LEGALISM -- WE ARE ALL IMPERFECT ("...SPECK IN YOUR BROTHERS EYE...")
- THE GOAL IS NOT PERFECTION, IT'S ABOUT DIRECTION
- "2 OR 3 WITNESSES" - THIS IS AN OLD TESTAMENT THING (DEUTERONOMY 19:15)
- NOT "FIND PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH YOU AND GANG UP ON SOMEONE"
- "TREAT THEM AS A PAGAN OR TAX COLLECTOR"
- JESUS WAS ACCUSED OF SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME WITH PAGANS AND TAX COLLECTORS
- THIS IS AN INVITATION TO TAKE THE CONVERSATION TO A DIFFERENT PLACE
- MAYBE THIS PERSON NEEDS TO START FROM SCRATCH WITH CHRIST
- JESUS SAYS THAT'S NOT UP TO YOU TO DECIDE ALONE -- IT'S COMMUNITY
- THIS IS NOT A SYSTEM OF PUNISHMENT, BUT A SYSTEM OF RESTORATION
- WHAT JESUS SAYS NEXT IS THAT CONVERSATIONS ARE IMPORTANT AND HAVE ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES
- "WHERE 2 OF 3 GATHER..."
- IT MEANS "TOWARDS MY NAME"
- NAMES MEANT THE TOTALITY OF WHO SOMEONE IS
- WHEN YOU GATHER TOGETHER, LINING YOURSELF UP WITH ALL OF WHO JESUS IS, REST ASSURED THAT GOD IS WORKING THERE
- THIS ALSO MEANS THAT FROM THE MOMENT YOU ACCEPT HIM, JESUS CAN USE YOU
- IT'S NOT ABOUT PERFECTION, BUT DIRECTION
- JESUS IS ASKING US TO ALWAYS CONSIDER WHERE WE'RE HEADING
- THIS IS HOW WE FIGHT LEGALISM
- GOD IS NOT TRYING TO MAKE BAD CHRISTIANS INTO GOOD CHRISTIANS
- IT'S MORE LIKE ALLOWING SUFFOCATING PEOPLE TO BREATHE AGAIN
- JESUS CAN DO SO MUCH WITH A LIFE THAT IS MOVING TOWARDS HIM