Getting at the Heart of God-Focused Ministry, Session 3 (Q & A)

North Hills Community Church

Taylors, SC

Do you own a gun?

I do not own a gun. I never have owned a gun, except a BB gun. I had a BB gun one time. And I wouldn’t want one because they’re dangerous. People get killed who own guns.

Relative to the subject of God-centered ministry and courage in doing this, can you speak to the relationship of prayer and fasting to that? Unless of course you’re planning to address it.

No, I don’t have any particular plans for speaking to prayer and fasting in God-centered ministry. Jesus said, “When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair” (Matthew 6:16–18), not, “If you fast, wash your face and comb your hair.” And he said in Matthew 9:15, “When the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast.”

So I think fasting is an expected part of the Christian life and that the function of it is to put a physical exclamation point at the end of the sentence, “I need you more than I need food.” That’s what fasting is. It’s a physical exclamation point at the end of a prayer that says, “Come, I need you. I want you. I long for you. I’m hungry for you. I thirst for you.” You can say that, but if you never tell your soul with your body, “I really mean that,” with a little bit of self-denial, the authenticity of it doesn’t ring as true as it would if you accompanied it with regular fasting.

There are no rules laid down whatsoever in the Bible on this, as far as I can see. I wouldn’t prescribe daily, weekly, monthly, or anything. I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to do it. I wouldn’t say everybody has to do a 40-day fast, or everybody has to do a three-week fast, or everybody has to fast during Lent, or anything. I would just say that if this is a new thought to you and fasting is not part of your life, just go home and read those texts and get my book on fasting if you want to know some other texts. And then just ask God, “How should I build this into my life?” And I think he’ll bring to your mind appropriate ideas and you’ll do it.

It basically is an intensifier of passion. That’s what it is. It’s an intensifier of devotion to Christ because food is a massive power in our lives. It’s killing lots of women. I stood up and did a sermon on lust one time at a southern Baptist gathering. There were about 800 missionaries there, and I just laid hold on those guys and wrung their necks because they were going to fire five missionaries that afternoon for pornography. And I just wrung their necks and said, “Come on. We can lick this thing and fight this thing.”

And a woman came up to me and she said, “Thank you so much for that. You know what every woman was hearing when you said sex?” I said, “No. What?” She said, “Food.” Now that’s probably an overstatement, but she said that to me. She said, “My friends and I were talking about this. You men struggle with this thing you call lust and pornography, and we’re thinking Oreo cookies,” or whatever you happen to binge with. It’s whatever you do on the sly, whatever you keep under your desk, whatever you do when your husband’s not looking. It’s killing young women all over the place. Food in our culture is just massive and all that goes with it. Figure goes with it. It involves pumping iron for guys and making sure you don’t have whatever that stuff is called on your thighs for women. We’re so drawn into what food can or can’t do for us that it’s just destroying many people.

Now, fasting can be terribly abused in this regard. I mean that’s what some disorders are. Some eating disorders are. They’re fasting gone crazy. So I have to be really careful here, but I say we need a sober-minded view of food. The apostle Paul said 1 Corinthians 6:12, “I will not be enslaved by anything.” It could be coffee, diet pop, alcohol, Ibuprofen, Valium, food of any kind, sex, pornography, etc. He said, “I will not be enslaved.” If I find myself getting to a point where I can’t function without this and I’m drawn to this like I bat my eyelashes, I’m going to crucify this thing. And fasting is just a rhythm where you check yourself. I tell you, when I fast I find out horrible things about myself, especially about anger and how quickly my threshold of anger lowers when I’m not getting food in my stomach. Isn’t that awful? That makes me find out what’s really making me sanctified. Food. That’s not good.

My question goes along with what you were talking about this morning. I just got engaged and my fiance and I feel called to the nations and we know that the price of that is suffering, and that blows our parents’ minds. So my question is how do you hate your father and mother and renounce everything and at the same time honor your father and mother?

That’s exactly the right way to ask the question. Somebody asked me about it last week. A text that I have gone to for years is 1 Peter 2:17, where it says, “Honor all men.” When I used to teach 1 Peter at Bethel College, one of my exegesis questions was, how do you honor a murderer or a rapist? Because it says, “Honor all men.” The answer is that you don’t honor a murderer the same way you honor a person who lays down his life for somebody or a law-abiding citizen. You honor a murderer by not treating him like a dog. That is, you give him a fair trial and you find a good lawyer for him. And when you’re dealing with him in prison, you care about his soul and you ask him hard questions and you plead with him to get right with his maker. He’s created in the image of God. You say, “Don’t throw your life away.” And if possible you lead him to Jesus and then pray for him all the way to the electric chair, that he will die well and go to be with Jesus. That’s the way you honor a murderer.

So the point is not that your parents are anything like that category. There’s a principle I’m getting at here. The principle is honoring people is done differently from the kind of person to the kind of person you’re dealing with. Honor doesn’t always look the same. I don’t know whether your parents are believers or not, and that wouldn’t necessarily change things. But to honor a parent who is disproving of your deep sense of calling to Jesus would be, I think, primarily an attitudinal thing. You would say to mom and dad not, “I don’t care what you think. I’m out of here. I belong to Jesus.” That is not the way a Christian talks to a parent. A Christian talks to a parent, no matter what age you are, saying, “You’re my parent. I owe you more than I could ever say.” No matter how bad they’ve been, that’s true. You say, “I owe you and I long to respect you, honor you, uphold you. And you know that I’ve become a Christian and I have a deep allegiance to Jesus. You and I are seeing things differently right now. I grieve over that. I’m willing to work on that. I don’t want to be hasty here. I want to listen to you. Talk to me about why what I might be doing is foolish. I won’t run away and say, ‘I don’t care what you think.’ I do care what you think.”

You listen, you talk, and you say, “Mom and dad, could we agree to disagree at this moment, and that I’m grown now? I sense that in my relationship with God it means this for my wife and me. I know that’s hard for you and I’m not doing this by blowing you off. It grieves me that we’re not the same, but can you honor me as a grown child by saying, ‘I respect your view’? And I’ll honor you and your differences, and we won’t have this horrible breach.” I think that kind of talk is deeply respectful, though you will probably do what they are hurt by.

When we are in relationships — child to parents, parishioner to pastor, citizen to governor, pupil to teacher, employee to boss — I think God’s will is that all of those be deferential relationships. They should be submissive, respectful relationships, where the under person respects and honors the over person, even though those structures are artificially created, say, by a job you have and you have a boss. It doesn’t mean he’s worth any more than you are. It just means in the relationship a certain way of honoring him is appropriate. He may be an out and out unbeliever and you’re a believer, and he’s your boss. You will find ways of according to him appropriate boss-like respect, while radically disapproving of what he does on the weekend, even disrespecting what he does on the weekend. So that’s a principle. It’s not easy to apply, but that’s the way I’d go about it.

Could you give some guidelines or comment on a situation, let’s say given what you said about the culture here, where the church leaders may not be fully motivated or oriented in a God-centered way. How would you as the leader or the pastor of that church bring those folks along or lead them in a more God-centered direction as the leaders of that congregation?

Good question. Well that was true of my church 21 years ago and still is true of many people. There’s so many new people that are having to get on board. It’s always true, really. If you have a growing church or a church in a community with a lot of flux, it’s always going to be true. You’ll never get to a point where the whole church has got it. You’ll always be trying to help people get it.

I think one of the most basic things I say, and it’ll be my next message here in a couple hours, is to out-rejoice your people. Beat them at the joy enterprise, and do it biblically. That is, exegete the Bible. Preach exposition so that if they have a beef to pick, it’s with the Bible. But they’ll be disinclined to pick it because you seem so happy about it. If you hammer them over the head with a frown and a growl only, they’ll pick at it easily. They’ll want to pick everything you say apart. They won’t like anything you say even though it looks like it’s really there. But if you are out-rejoicing them, they’ll feel like, “He must be seeing something, but I’m not seeing it. He seems to be so happy about this election thing, which just scares the hell out of me.” I spoke to a woman one time about this. She was a Baptist and she said, “You don’t believe in predestination, do you?” I said, “Why are you asking it that way?” She said, “Well, that’s Presbyterian.” She didn’t have categories like those words are in the Bible. So first, out-rejoice them.

I can remember the early days on a Sunday night. We didn’t have many people on Sunday night. We had maybe 150 people on Sunday night, something like that, back in the early 1980s. There was a whole line of women at the time who sat in the back. I had men that were against me too, but the men weren’t quite as upset as the women were at the time. There were about four older women sitting, right where Scott is sitting back there in the back row on Sunday night, with their arms folded. They had this new pastor. They wouldn’t sing. I don’t know why they came. It was their church, that’s why they came.

And there I was. I was preaching through the Gospel of Luke every Sunday night. I put an overhead on and I would draw diagrams and just get everything that I could right out of the text, and they’d just sit there. They would stand up when we went to sing, but they wouldn’t take a hymn book in their hands. That was back when we used to use hymn books more than we do now. One night I was speaking on something and their demeanor just got so bad to me that I said, “Now, I know a lot of you don’t agree with that.” And I named one of them. I looked right at her and I said, “I know you don’t agree with me. But you know what? I’m going to out-rejoice you and outlast you.” That was 21 years ago. They’re all dead. But they should be. They were old. I didn’t do anything.

My people laughed just like you did when I said that. That was not an ugly thing to say. Everybody felt that at the moment like, “He’s really okay with what he’s saying.” And they felt sorry back there. The church was growing, everybody was happy. We were discovering God afresh. What’s wrong with these ones in the back? Come on, get on board.

I’ll tell you there are other stories to tell. In this one I do remember his name. His name is Clayton. Clayton and I to this day don’t agree on eschatology. He stood up in the middle of the service one time and said, “No!” when I was preaching on the second coming. That’s never happened before or since. I’m not a Left Behind series kind of guy. I said, “Clayton, I know where you are, and I know what you believe about the rapture and what I believe about the rapture. If you’re right, this will happen, if I’m right, that’ll happen. And brother, I love you.” Everybody laughed and he cooled off.

Well, to this day, we’ve had 14 years of pastor’s conferences at Bethlehem. Clayton comes to every one of them. He serves in the kitchen. When his wife Mary died, I did the funeral and he called me from 50 miles away to come do the funeral. Clayton and I are really precious friends, and he thought this new pastor was the absolute worst thing that ever happened to Bethlehem Baptist Church 20 years ago. So it can turn around. Some of your worst adversaries can become some of your most precious supporters and then they can both happen.

So out-rejoice them, stay near the Bible, and stay a long time and love them to death. I did a funeral every three weeks for 18 months at Bethlehem. That’s the kind of church I went to. They were all old. I took a downtown, old, dying church in Minneapolis. It’s been there 130 years, though it was 110 years at the time. I just buried them one after the other. And you know what? They all came to those funerals and they heard me love them. They heard me preach. They heard me give them hope and they’d come to me afterwards.

Do you know how old women in Minneapolis shake hands? It’s almost embarrassing. They push your hand against their tummy like this. I don’t know why they do that. It must be a Swedish thing or something. But they would come up to me after these things, they’d take my hand, get really close to me, and they’d just say, “Oh, would you do my funeral?” That’s the way to win a church. Just love them.

We have a glorious gospel. I’d rather do a funeral any day than a wedding. We have good news about weddings, but we know what these couples are getting into. I want to tell them that this person who died is not into marriage right now. He’s into heaven, which is far better. You probably think I have a terrible marriage, don’t you? Well, I don’t, but I have tasted hard times. I know about marriages. They break up, they’re hard.

That was a great lead into what I wanted to ask. It seems like a number of families in the church are getting divorced all the time, and I just want to know what your church’s stand was on it and what they allow for divorce and then how does your church react to a family or a couple that does get a divorce in the church?

I have a couple things. I can kill several birds with one stone here. One is a view of divorce and remarriage that I have, and another is how you deal with differences in the church on that issue. Those are very related issues. So let me deal with both. I hold a very conservative view in which I do not remarry anybody while their spouse is living. That’s what I see in the Bible, that God’s ideal for marriage is that it be a lifetime of one man and one woman. When divorces happen, which they do, I can’t keep them from happening. What I can do is try to urge the spouse to say, “I’m going to not remarry while the partner is living.” I know I’m talking to divorced and remarried people in this room, so don’t phase out on me here and feel like, “Oh, boy, he has me in a lost category or something.” I don’t.

That’s my personal practice and conviction. I’ll preach that. I cannot persuade my elders that it’s so clearly biblical that we should make it church policy. And that’s probably good that I can’t because I don’t really want to do church discipline merely on the basis of my view if I can’t have my elders with me. Church discipline is a church act. It’s not a pastor’s act. Pastors can’t just decide who’s going to be disciplined, or elders, or whatever you want to call them. Elders do discipline and the church does discipline, ultimately.

We spent four years on this, studying, writing, reading, and persuading, and we decided as a council we would go with a historic Reformed Protestant position, namely, unrepentant adultery and decisive desertion are warrants for legitimate divorce and remarriage within the bounds of this church. So that happens and we don’t discipline a couple who divorces if there is a legitimate severing through repeated acts of unrepentant adultery. The ambiguities of that just come to my mind so fast that you can see why I hold the view I do. When does it become irreversible? How many times does adultery have to happen? How long does a separation warrant? Those kinds of things are so difficult to decide. But in our church we will try to shepherd a wife or a husband through a mess like that rather than saying, “You’re out of here,” if there’s a divorce.

Now what do we do if people disobey that rule? That happens yearly in a 2,000 person church, to my sadness. Here you have a woman. She’s worked in the youth ministry for nine years. She’s got four kids. They’ve been on the mission field, and suddenly her husband comes to you and says that she’s living with another guy. He cries his eyes out in your office. And your mouth just drops. It was out of the blue. It was absolutely, totally out of the blue. You never would’ve dreamed that would happen. And you start to believe in the devil. I mean you start to believe in evil, big time. Where did that come from? You go to her and she’s as brazen and as hard as though she just went to another planet and got a makeover. It’s just awesome, the power of sin and Satan. And when sex blends with certain kinds of rebellion in the heart, it takes an almighty God to get through.

There’s two or three like that right now in my church that need to be disciplined. And the question is how long do you give them? We’re dragging our feet on a few and we’ve acted on a few, but discipline has to happen. There’s absolutely no warrant for this departure on her part. Nothing biblical comes close to justifying what she’s done. And it works the other way too with men doing the same thing. Talk about Reformed theology. This is true, folks, right across the theological spectrum. I don’t claim, “Oh, become a Calvinist and that won’t ever happen to you.” Baloney. Because here we have a couple that comes to our church from a very Reformed, straight-laced church, you might even call it even fundamental, and he took off. This is a guy who thinks I’m liberal because we lift our hands in worship, and he’s living with another woman now, criticizing me for lifting my hands in worship. Thank you for vindicating me.

So it’s right across the board, whether you’re charismatic, whether you’re fundamental, whether you’re Reformed, it happens to you. It happens to your church. So we excommunicated him. It was very painful. His wife sits down here in the second row every Sunday with her children. They’re grown children. This guy inexplicably knows Reformed theology backwards and forwards, is anti-charismatic to the hilt — and every other kind of anti there is — and he lives with another woman. We got him back one time for a few weeks with warnings. He does believe in hell. And we said, “You’re probably going there.” It scared him big time, and he came back for about three weeks and then he caved again. So that’s where I am. That’s where we are.

You would never know it, but I’m a really flexible person on a few things. I got a phone call the other day. I’ll stop with this. This is just such an interesting illustration. I got a phone call from my son Barnabas, who just started at Wheaton College the other day. We were talking about the fact that I’m teaching a series on eschatology on Wednesday night right now. I said, “I want to orient my people on the lay of the land and take a position with regard to Left Behind and billions of books being sold.” And he said, “Yeah, people ask me all the time, ‘What’s your dad think about this, and what’s your dad think about that?’” And I said, “What do you tell them?” He said, “Well, I don’t know what to tell them about the second coming.” I said, “That’s because you grew up in a really loosey goosey home.” And he said, “Only on that issue!”

While we’re into controversy, I thought that I would ask this question: how do you maintain a missionary fervor and evangelistic zeal with your Calvinism?

I have to be careful here. I want to say, how can you maintain it without a Calvinistic zeal? But I better explain. That’s true. That’s a legitimate comment. Many do not, he said, and that is true. In fact, my father-in-law 30 years ago said something about that. I’ve been married 32 years. He was scared to death that his daughter was going to marry a Calvinist. He only knew one kind, the primitive Baptists, and they don’t do missions. Now some do. The primitive Baptists also have loose differences among themselves. But all he knew was what you’re talking about — hyper Calvinists who think you don’t share the Gospel with anybody until you have a warrant that they’re elect. And that’s the technical meaning of hyper Calvinism. And William Carey of course stood up and said, “That’s not biblical.” And the big shot said, “Sit down young man. God will reach the nations when he wants to without your help.” And he of course got in his face and set the pattern.

The reason I said what I said is that Islam is the big challenge right now. Buddhists and Hindus are also big challenges. Everybody is a big challenge. My son, Abraham, is breaking my heart right now and is a big challenge. I have one hope for my son, Abraham, and do you know what it is? It isn’t his free will. It is almighty God breaking into his life, peeling back the blindness, defeating the devil, opening the eyes of his heart, inclining him to God’s testimonies, and drawing him irresistibly to the Son. That’s my only hope for my son, and that’s what I pray. I pray that way.

I don’t know how Arminians pray for the conversion of their children or anybody’s conversion for that matter, because when I pray for somebody’s conversion I use new covenant promises. God says, “I will take out of you the heart of stone and I will put in the heart of flesh,” and, “I will cause you to walk in my statutes,” and, “I will make with you an everlasting covenant that I may not turn away from doing you good, and I will put the fear of me in your heart so that you will not turn away from me.” I take those new covenant promises, and I say, “Do it for Abraham. Do it.”

So my prayers are enlivened by sovereign promises. And my commitment to missions is that he’s going to win, but he will not win without you and me, because he has simply ordained that the gospel be spoken and that his sovereign Spirit will work through the gospel. The Holy Spirit is not loosey goosey moving all over the world regenerating people. He is moving straight in line with the word, like these jets that come up alongside these airlines. Here comes an F-14 right next to the plane. That’s the way the Holy Spirit is.

The gospel is heading for New York and the Holy Spirit says, “That’s where I’m going. Right towards New York.” If the Gospel peels off and goes and the preacher sits and watches TV, the Holy Spirit sits down, or goes to somebody else and says, “We’re going to New York. Get up. I’m calling you to do missions.” But the Holy Spirit doesn’t go save people in Cameroon or in Algeria or in Afghanistan without the gospel being spoken. So the gospel is spoken in the confidence that a sovereign God will speak and save.

I just thought this morning when Paul got put in prison, like some of us may get put in prison, you know what you ought to say to the jailer as they put you in prison for preaching the gospel? They might say, “There, now what do you make of your triumphant gospel?” You should look them right in the face and say, “The word of God is not fettered, though I’m fettered. It will run and it will triumph and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

My Calvinism is all the fire in my bones for missions. So I have to take questions like that carefully because I feel bad. I really feel bad. It’s a legitimate question, especially coming out of a situation where all you’ve known perhaps are dead, Orthodox, cross-your-T-and-dot-your-I Calvinists, who spend all their time fighting in fighting struggles about the minutiae of the atonement and never witness to anybody with fruitfulness. And if that’s all you know, I say that I don’t want anything to do with them anymore than I want to associate with people who deny the sovereignty of God.

If you’re not evangelistic, if you don’t care about lost people, if you don’t believe that God has a purpose to save the nations, you’re not a Calvinist. Or who cares about the word Calvinist? Just junk the word. It’s always got a little C anyway in my vocabulary, even though my spell corrector on the computer insists on making it capital. It always has a little C, and it’s a big B in the front of “Bible”. And you can scrap the word Calvinist as far as I can care. Just believe that God saves people. He really saves people. And if he didn’t, I wouldn’t know what to ask him to do in prayer and I wouldn’t know what to call people to experience except to trust him. Trust him and believe that even faith is a gift. Oh, I could talk so much more. This is not a seminar on Calvinism, but if you want it to be, ask another question. Where are we?

I’m going to try to make sense out of this question. I’ve been struggling with it since the campus outreach Christmas conference dealing with issues like our utter depravity. You said last night how we don’t add anything to God, and we do not improve upon his glory. And you spoke of other background concept that he has been eternally happy in the past and in the future in and of himself.

So with all those facts, I’m struggling with The End for Which God Created the World. Also, Deuteronomy 9:29 helps me phrase my question. It says, For they are your people and your heritage . . .” Five other times in the Old Testament refers to us as his inheritance. And combine that with the idea of a bridegroom rejoicing over the bride, and obviously it’s not because of ourselves, but are we providing God with something else? Some new joy he didn’t have in eternity past?

Boy, that’s about as ultimate and difficult a question as you can ask. And the big, heavy hitters in theology, like Calvin and Karl Barth, wrote gobs of pages trying to solve why God created the world without needing the world. You’ve posed it just as well as it can be posed. Edwards has struggled with it as well as anybody, and I don’t think I can improve upon his answer. I can say a little more and just try to put it in more contemporary language. Edwards said it is no mark of the deficiency of a fountain that it is prone to overflow.

Now, that’s not an ultimately satisfying answer for a rigorous, careful theologian probably because the word prone has ambiguities in it. What do you mean prone? So analogies go so far and not all the way, but it helped me that the overflow of creation is no sign of God feeling a defect that he has to now fix by creation, so that I now, by my existence, or my praise, or my obedience, make him less defective than he was before he created me to do it. I want to get that model of creation out of my head. Don’t ever say to your children, “God created you because he was lonely.” What a horrid thing to say to children. He was not lonely, he was infinitely happy, like you said, in the fellowship of the Trinity from all eternity. But that infinite happiness is such that it is explosively outward-directed.

Now, I think there’s another piece of the answer as to why he delights in his bride, the church, or his inheritance, the apple of his eye. I just read this morning in Isaiah 69:19, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people . . .” That’s in the Bible. We have to believe that. So how can his delight be in me and yet he was perfectly delighted before I existed? Edwards answered that he always had a perfect picture in his mind of that delight and delighted in it before it happened. But he means to externalize, and I’m going to get at this both in the next message and in the one tonight because really my whole system of Christian Hedonism is an effort to come to terms with this question. I think the mercy of God on display is my delight, so God’s delighting in my delighting in his mercy is simply a way of God valuing his mercy and valuing what reflects his mercy. So it isn’t me in and of myself that delights God. It’s all of that reflecting the value of his mercy, which he’s always had and known. And I think that’s about as far as I can go.

That probably does not satisfactorily answer the question because I think there are about two or three questions in theology that push the limit of answers. That would be one. The ultimate origin of evil would be another. Where did it come from? The first twinkle of evil in Lucifer’s mind. Where did that come from? That to me is an imponderable question, so don’t go crazy at that level. If you live on the edges of eternity too long, you can go crazy. You can lose your mind. So walk up to it. Get a few helpers like Edwards and Calvin and others to think with you right there and help whether you’ve gone as far as you can go, and then resolve to live with a few mysteries and come back to reality and start preaching the gospel and leave some things for God to explain later.

I have a family member who claims to be a Christian and has done something very bad. How do I continue to have a loving relationship with this person and yet not seem to condone what they’ve done?

Yeah, excellent question. It’s an excellent question because the Bible really does commend at times a holy ostracism for those who have disobeyed the apostle’s teaching. Second Thessalonians 3:15 says, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”

I’ll give you an example. I don’t know your situation, so I use one that I know of. We have a missionary’s family in our church. The sister has a live-in boyfriend and claims to be a Christian. She doesn’t go to our church, so it wasn’t our discipline issue, but it was our heart issue. They’re broken-hearted that she’s thrown away their parents’ standards. She’s living with this boy. I think they’re in their 20s. And they came to me to ask your question. They said, “We love our sister and we don’t know how to relate to her. She’s doing this thing over here. This awful thing. She’s doing it. It’s not just that she did it, but she’s doing it.”

And I said, “Well, she claims to be a believer, which means this is the text right here relates, namely, if a person claims to be a brother and is disobeying, then you don’t hang out with him.” I said, “I know this is going to be hard. I would suggest that you meet her over lunch and you plead with her, first of all, with tears in your eyes that she forsakes sin and gets right with God, that he’ll forgive her for this. There’s a future for her life. Plead with her. If she says, ‘You’re just a bunch of judgmental Baptists. God’s a gracious God. He’ll forgive me for this. I just need to do it,’ then you say, ‘We believe the Bible teaches that we can’t just go on hanging out with you in our usual weekend ways. We can’t just go bowling together. We can’t just hang out and do pizza and watch a movie together, because it would just feel to us like everything’s the same way it’s always been and we’re putting approval on this terrible thing you’re living in. So we’re not going to cut you off entirely. We’ll call you. If you want to talk to us about your soul or about life we’re always available. We just knock out these things that we used to do.’”

And you know, I can’t remember how long it was, but they won her back. It worked. It doesn’t always work, but in that case, that measure of discipline, that holy ostracism worked. It was loving, tender, kind, and not in your face and ugly, like saying, “Get out of our lives, you adulteress,” or something like that. But rather, they said, “We can’t condone this and so we’re not going to eat with you.” And then they pulled back. It was strained, it was hard. She did not like it. She accused them of being intolerant and unkind and uncaring and un-Christian, just like the pastor in Minneapolis accused me of being un-Christian and not having the Spirit of Christ when I try to save Jews.

And God honored it. God honored it because what that caused was for her to feel like somebody really takes this seriously. Whereas if you just go on with life as usual, it looks like, “Well, maybe there is no big deal here,” which is why so many of our people in our churches are living in sin. They think, “It just feels like nobody is bent out of shape about this, so I guess it’s not as bad as I thought it was.”