We Need Friends to Fight Sin
One of the godliest men in the Old Testament committed adultery, and then covered it up by murdering the husband of his new lover. If even God’s anointed king can fall into such sin, we all should beware. What’s worse is David didn’t quickly come under conviction and repent. Rather, he was hard-hearted over his sin for many months, maybe longer.
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how long David’s heart was cold towards God after his sin, but we know that by the time Nathan came to rebuke David, the baby from the affair had already been born. David, the man so filled with the Holy Spirit he wrote almost half the book of Psalms, hardened his heart for the better part of a year against his Savior.
What did it take for David to finally repent? A prophet had to stick his finger in David’s face and say, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). After Nathan’s strong rebuke, David quickly and fully repented. More importantly, God instantly forgave his sin (2 Samuel 12:13). Soon David returned to a place of worshipping and trusting his God. But a key element in his repentance and restoration was a godly friend who spoke the truth in love to him in a hard time.
Great Sin in Great Saints
David was one of the greatest leaders in the Old Testament. Peter was one of the greatest of the new. And yet, he also got into serious sin, long after he had been appointed to his leadership role by Christ himself. Peter’s sin was not as “scandalous” as David’s, but it was wicked nonetheless.
Peter made some very rash, destructive decisions because he feared others. God had told him personally that it was okay for Jews and non-Jews to have full fellowship together (see Acts 10–11), but though Peter enjoyed this new fellowship for a time, he drew back and separated from his Gentile brothers in Christ, because of the social pressure of “the circumcision party” (Galatians 2:11–14).
This is much worse than just not sitting with a friend at the lunch table. There were deep gospel implications to Peter’s actions. He was such a key church leader that his actions spoke loudly about doctrinal truths. His decisions about seating arrangements indicated that the Gentile Christians would need to become Jewish in order to be fully accepted. In short, Peter’s practice didn’t align with his doctrine of justification, so that the doctrine was in danger of perversion or misinterpretation.
When did Peter stop and repent? After the apostle Paul saw through his sinful actions, he called him to the carpet publically (Galatians 2:14). If spiritual heroes like David and Peter needed friends in their lives like Nathan and Paul, what do we need in our life?
Maybe the better question is who do we need in our lives? In the face of all the hardships that would tempt us to turn from Christ, the author of Hebrews wisely instructs us that one of the best ways to draw near to Christ is to draw near to his body, the church.
In Hebrews 10:24–25 he exhorts believers to “stir up one another” and to “encourage one another.” This seems to be something different than the (necessary) practice of weekly, gathered worship. While corporate worship is one of the most important means of grace there is, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about something other than a large gathering on a Sunday morning where one or two pastors do most of the encouraging and stirring.
He is talking about a responsibility all believers have to stir up one another and to encourage “one another.” I don’t think “big church” (as I used to call it as a kid) is the only thing most Christians need to really persevere in the faith for the long haul. Most of us aren’t good at just listening to a sermon and then figuring out all the right applications on our own. Further, many of us aren’t good at holding ourselves accountable even if we know all the right applications. We need closer, more intimate accountability and fellowship.
Do You Need Healing?
Virtually all Christians know that we should be regularly confessing our sins to Christ as 1 John 1:9 says. We can go straight to our Savior, anytime, anyplace, without the aid of a priest. Christ is our great high priest. And yet, James 5:16 says there is great value in confessing our sins one to another: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
The word used for “healing” can be used to refer to physical or spiritual healing. You may not currently need physical healing, but do you need spiritual healing? Is your walk with the Lord dry? Is your heart cold towards him? Do you seem hardened to spiritual things in general? Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? Is there any secret sin?
Sometimes being honest with another person eye to eye about our sin forces us to be more honest with ourselves about our sin and ultimately more honest with the Lord. Is there any ongoing pattern of sin that you have not dealt with? Is there any scandalous sin that you have kept hidden from all people, though you may have confessed to the Lord? Trust God’s word, and confess it to someone.
Whether it’s a small group, or an accountability group, or some other arrangement, we all need the help of other Christians in the church to assess, call out, and rebuke our sins, and to encourage us in holy living. Take advantage of the great gift God has given in providing not only forgiveness (Romans 8:1) and sin-killing power (Romans 8:4) by faith, but also other believers (Romans 12:5–8) to whom we can confess our sins and have them speak truth and grace back to us.