Archives For Local Church Ministry

February 17, 2017

Forgiven People Forgive

by Mike Riccardi

ForgiveWell, we’re back to our series on dealing with sin in the church from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. If you haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’d encourage you to do so. We’ve been moving through the stages of faithful, successful discipline, and have seen three of them so far. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; and third, there is, we hope, genuine repentance. The fourth stage, after there has been genuine repentance, is comforting forgiveness. Paul says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

Here we glean a principle that needs to take root in the soil of every Christian’s heart: where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When a sinner repents, the church forgives. And though the original events of this text lead us to apply this principle first of all to cases of corporate church discipline, we all need to hear this point in light of our own duty to forgive those who sin against us personally. When a sinner repents, Christians forgive.

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Last week I listed seven components of worship that should take place when the church is gathered: fellowship, ordinances, Scripture reading, giving, corporate prayer, preaching, and singing. By itself, this list demonstrates the necessity of being part of a church. If a Christian is not part of a church, he separates himself from not only the means of grace, but the means of worship as well.

This week I want to answer this question: should all seven of them be present in every service? Or, to ask it another way, are any of these seven prioritized over the others? Is every form of corporate worship equal, or are some more equal than others?  Continue Reading…

RepentanceToday we continue in our series on dealing with sin in the church, in which we’ve been looking to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, which we’ve said provides us with five stages of successful church discipline.

The first of those stages is the sin that makes discipline necessary. In examining Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5, we focused particularly on the corporate nature of sin in the church: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.” Even though the conflict was primarily between one man and the Apostle Paul, sin’s harm is never restricted to the offender and the offended. Because of the essential interconnectedness of the body of Christ, sin in even one part of the body brings sorrow to the entire church (1 Cor 12:26). The spiritual health of the body as a whole depends on the spiritual health of each member, and unrepentant sin in the body of Christ is a spiritual cancer. If left unchecked, sin will infect the whole body until it destroys all spiritual life. Because sin is so serious, it must be confronted and dealt with.

The second stage in this process is the discipline itself, “the punishment which was inflicted by the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). This “punishment” (epitimia) is a legal term that refers to an official disciplinary act, and it is to be carried out “by the majority.” The church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline. If there has been no repentance, the church is instructed to remove the man or woman in question from the fellowship of the body (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5, 13; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; Tit 3:10). While some might think this to be spiteful or harsh, it is the most loving thing that the church can do for a sinning brother. He needs to be made to feel the error of his ways. Though it may be painful, excluding him from the life of the church may be the only way to induce that godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

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Ministry is hard.

easyYou’re probably thinking, “No duh, Jordan.” But there was a time that I actually thought that it was going to be easy. I’m prone to make the same mistake over and over again. When I sat in my pre-marital counseling, I thought that marriage was going to be relatively easy. Then, before we had our first child and we took our parenting class, I thought, “Man, this is going to be a piece of cake.” And then there were times sitting in seminary classes that I thought, “Sounds pretty simple to me!”

But then I got married, and even though my wife is the most gorgeous and godly woman I know, I still can’t stop from being selfish towards her at times, and despite the fact that I’ve listened to hours of Tedd Tripp’s thoughts on parenting, I still struggle when my children sin against me, and even though I went to the best seminary in the world (yes, I know I’m biased), ministry is still incredibly difficult. Sitting in a classroom is one thing, but actually experiencing the ministry is another.

Recently, as I had the opportunity to teach on Luke 9:1-9, I was overwhelmed with the concept of giving glory to God in our ministries. How does God get glory from us doing ministry? For over a year Jesus had done everything, and it was going pretty well. Yes, He was almost killed a couple times, even in His own town, but thousands were being healed, thousands were having demons cast out, and, as you read the verses right after this section, you see that thousands upon thousands were following Christ so far that they didn’t have food to eat and He had to feed the hungry crowd. Jesus was doing ministry perfectly.

And in these verses, He decides to step back for a time and sends out the twelve disciples to go do ministry for the first time.

Jesus didn’t have to do this. He could have done it all. The Trinity could have decided before the foundation of time to never create humans or to not allow human beings to share in ministry, and yet God decided to not only create humans but for human beings to be the instruments He would use to bring glory to Himself.

And so, Jesus sends out the twelve, but it is quite obvious here that the disciples are completely dependent on Christ. We throw around the words “give glory to God” very often in the church, but I believe this passage actually gives us the opportunity to define this term a little better.  In fact, Jesus gives us three gifts that drive us to admit or dependence on Him and that ultimately allows Him to receive all the glory and praise.

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DisciplineOver the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining what the New Testament says about dealing with sin in the church. To learn how the church is to deal with sin in its midst, we’ve turned principally to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. There, Paul discusses his dealings with a sinning member of the Corinthian church who has now repentant and seeking restoration to the fellowship of the church at Corinth. However, the church is struggling to accept this repentant brother because of the severity of his sin and the way it has affected Paul himself. Paul writes to encourage the church to restore him. In that passage, Paul outlines five stages of successful church discipline (or perhaps better termed, church restoration). Two weeks ago, we took a look at the first stage, which was the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This week, we look to stage number two, which is corporate discipline.

2 Corinthians 2:6 says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”

The word that gets translated “punishment,” is epitimía. It’s a technical, legal term that in secular Greek refers to an official disciplinary act. And this official act of discipline was carried out “by the majority.” That is to say, the church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline.

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biblepulpitWe are less than a month away from the Shepherds conference and the anticipation is building as we are looking forward to another incredible week. I get that I am biased, but I do believe it is the best conference to go to. Grace Community Church does an incredible job serving the pastors who come, it is great to see so many old friends and make some new ones, and, most of all, it always seems like the various speakers preach their best sermons during this conference.

This year’s theme is going to be “We Preach Christ” and it will be honoring the 500th year of the protestant reformation you can watch the conference at the conference website. To whet our appetite a little I’d like to highlight a sermon preached by Steve Lawson two years ago. The focus of the conference that year was on the inerrancy of Scripture.

He began his sermon by quoting Spurgeon who said, “O Friends, if I did not believe in the infallibility of Scripture—the absolute infallibility of it from cover to cover—I would never enter this pulpit again.

Then, Steve Lawson declared, “Because the Word of God is inerrant, it is, therefore, by necessity, invincible. And because it is absolutely pure, it is absolutely powerful.”

He also added, “The Bible is like a beautiful diamond that has many different cuts, and, when you hold it up to the light, each beauty is refracting the light of each different side and no one symbol of the Bible can communicate the whole. So, it requires many different metaphors, many different analogies, to even begin to try to put its arm around the totality of the invincible power of the inerrant Word.”

All in all, this sermon was very quotable, so I’d like to share with you his outline, as well as some of my favorite quotes, that I hope will give you a gist of what he said. Of course, it would be best to listen to the sermon itself as it would be encouraging to any heart that treasures the Word of God.

Here are Steve Lawson’s seven metaphors that the Bible uses to describe Itself.

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SurgeryLast week we began a series on dealing with sin in the church. And as long as there are sinful people in the church—which is to say, always, on this side of heaven—the church needs to be equipped to deal with sin according to the instructions the Lord Jesus left us. And we turn to Paul’s directives in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11 to observe five stages of faithful and successful church discipline and restoration.

This week we come to that first stage, and that is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This passage teaches us that all sin is harmful to the body of Christ. Paul says in verse 5: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.”

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Recently I heard someone say that they love to worship, but they don’t love the church. They don’t see why a worshiper needs the church at all. After all, can’t we just worship as individuals? Here is my response:   Continue Reading…

January 18, 2017

Love & Irritability

by Eric Davis
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It was a typical night waiting tables in the fine dining room of the country club. Napkins were creased, flowers centered, and tables angled just right. Then my manager came to me with a warning I’ll never forget.

“Ok, Eric. Mr. So-and-so has a reservation tonight at 6pm.” Since I was newer, I did not know Mr. So-and-so. “You need to be warned about a few things. He doesn’t handle it well if things are not done his way.” The dining room manager proceeded to list a myriad of aesthetic and culinary requirements for Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience. The napkin had to be this way. The waiter had to approach him and his table a certain way. The water had to be poured in a particular manner. He had to be addressed in a certain way and tone. The food had to be set with a particular method. From start to finish, Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience came with several fiery hoops through which the dining staff must flawlessly leap. I was amazed. Working for a bit in fine dining, I was familiar with customer preferences and particularities. But this exceeded them all. “And if you do it wrong,” my manager warned, “you will anger him.”

As bad as all that is, I see too much of Mr. So-and-so in myself in various ways.

“Love…is not easily provoked” (1 Cor. 13:4,5).

Often we think of love in terms of a feeling or emotion. But here, God describes it as a demeanor in which we are not easily provoked towards potentially irritating people and circumstances. This is tough. Life is never lived in the sterile confines of a sinless, utopian laboratory well-removed from the Curse’s numerous provocations. This side of heaven, we are either about to be provoked, being provoked, just having been provoked, or some combination of the three. Everything inside and outside of us has the potential to provoke in one way or another.  Continue Reading…

Dealing with SinA couple of years ago, our church had the privilege of hosting a number of law enforcement officers from our community for morning services. More than 100 police officers who patrol the city of Los Angeles responded to John MacArthur’s invitation to join us for a Sunday morning that, in part, honored their commitment to protecting our society and gave them the opportunity to hear what the Word of God has to say about them: the civil authorities. Pastor John preached on the various institutions that God has raised up for the sake of restraining evil and maintaining order in a society: the conscience, the family, the government, and the church. Each of these God-ordained institutions, he explained, serves to restrain evil and maintain order in a society.

As would be expected, Pastor John focused on the institution of government that morning. But there’s reason to focus on the fourth of those institutions as well. Just as there is a great need for law and order to keep the peace in a civil society, so also is there a need for such law and order in the church. A civil society that has no laws, or that has no system of order to enforce those laws—no system to punish and rehabilitate offenders—is doomed to chaos. So severe is the nature of human depravity that a society of depraved human beings unrestrained by law and order is just unthinkable.

And the same is true of the church. Now, it’s true that our depravity has been overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. It’s true that we who are believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, directing our desires and causing us to strive against the flesh, and leading us to walk in righteousness. But those realities are not true for all who enter through the doors of the church on Sunday. Even within the visible church, there are those who believe that they’re saved, but who have not yet turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for their righteousness. And for those who have been born again—even though we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through the Gospel—we have not yet been set free from the presence of sin in our flesh. Galatians 5:17 reminds us: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Paul says elsewhere, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:21–23).

And so even though we who belong to Christ have been declared righteous in God’s sight on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, we nevertheless strive against the presence of remaining sin in our flesh. It is unhappy but all too familiar reality: Christians sin. And that means that the church needs to know how to deal with sin in its midst. There needs to be law and order in the church—a process for identifying, disciplining, and rehabilitating sinners.

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