One thing that you’ll hear me say a lot is ‘when we think of sin we often think of the sin out there (pointing beyond the church walls when I’m preaching)…but we often forget about the sin in here (pointing to the body of believers) and the sin in here (pointing to my own heart).’
I am a process thinker which means that I will mull things over from seventeen different perspectives and try and think about them in light of Scripture. There was a landmark and church rocking decision that was made in the U.S. late last month. Bloggers were blogging, preachers were preaching, and tongues were wagging. I heard some of the good stuff but I’m sure there was also some bad and some ugly. And my hope is that I will respond to that monumental decision a couple of posts down the road. This post and the next post are to prime the pump.
I was introducing a series on sin one time in a Sunday School class and asked the class to name specific sins. The interesting thing was that none of the particular sins that were named were ones that the body was guilty of (I may have mentioned this in a post before). They looked beyond the church to talk about the sin in society. And we know that the sin in society is pretty bad and we shouldn’t be surprised. They don’t have God’s Word or God’s Spirit, so we shouldn’t be scratching our heads. In fact, we should be a lot thankful for God’s common grace in our world that things aren’t more jacked up and wicked than they already are.
We need to talk about the sin in the church. Jerry Bridges wrote a little book called ‘Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate’ (I love the title) and I used it as the foundation for a sermon series a number of years ago. Essentially the book is about some of the sins that have become acceptable and common place in church world but still need to be called out and named and repented of. Some of the ones that he mentioned in the book were unthankfulness, anxiety, selfishness, impatience, sins of the tongue, envy and jealousy. That’s more than a mitful and those are some of the sins that may get swept under the rug or not seen as bad as the naughty nine…whatever the naughty nine are.
When we think of sin we need to first and foremost think of those sins that reign in our own dark hearts…as well as those ones that rule in the body. We need to be discerning. We need to be humble and tender and sensitive to God’s Word. We need to be responsive to brothers and sisters when they confront us. We also need to man up and be bold enough to pull a brother or sister aside when they are off the rails. In order for the church to shine a spotlight on God more purely, we need to acknowledge, name, and turn from, again and again, the sins that slip under the radar. We need much of God’s grace for that to happen.
In the book of 1 Corinthians there was a dude who was all caged up in sexual sin. In fact it was a sin that was not even acceptable among unbelieving (1 Corinthians 5:1). Paul didn’t say ignore it and deal with the sin of the world but he told them to confront the guy.
 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.  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.  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. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
(1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)
Paul wanted them to start with cleaning up themselves. We know that this isn’t a one time event but an ongoing thing that we need to do time and again. He didn’t want them to hang with a guy who claimed to be holding Christ’s hand with his left and the world with his right. Paul didn’t want unbelievers to see someone who was in a relationship with Christ and dating the world on the sly and think that that was cool. He wanted the individual to be address firmly and lovingly and for him to come to repentance and turn back to God. If he wasn’t willing to repent he needed to be removed from membership. God’s glory is at stake when believers act just like or worse than unbelievers and feel no remorse and don’t repent.
It’s so easy to see the speck in an unbelieving world’s eye when we have a 2X4 in our own. The sin of the world needs to be addressed and it’s key to help people see their need for the gospel. But that is another post for another time and hopefully it will be up before the week is out.
The church needs to be serious about it’s own sin, first and foremost. As we work towards becoming more Christlike, by the power of the gospel, that is a light that radiates into a messed up, sinned soaked, don’t know our right hand from our left, Satan reigning society. That is the aroma of Christ that needs to blow in the direction of unbelievers. They need to get a whiff of it.
I was talking to a friend the other night and he said that the church is to be attractional and he was right in one sense. The church body loving each other enough to encourage each other and to point out the blind spots in one another’s lives is attractional partly because of the change that it produces. The church body is unlike any other organization in our world. When the gospel starts to explode in church world (and I use that expression in a good way) we quite pretending, we come alongside each other to clean up our messes, we pray for each other, and genuinely care, for our own good and for the glory of God’s awesome name. And that, my friends, is attractional. That is the gospel on display in it’s power and some will be drawn to it.
 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 ESV)