Sin destroys a believer’s life. We use this verse when we share the gospel, you know, Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The wages of sin is death! That’s not true just theologically. That’s not true just with regard to salvation. The price tag of sin is death. What’s death in the New Testament, the Old Testament? It’s separation, it’s alienation from God.
You know, when I sin against my wife it produces a distance. When I sin against God it produces a distance and then there are consequences. If I see sin in your life, or you see sin in my life, if you see my life going this direction and the Scripture clearly says it should be going this direction and you don’t tell me, I’m going to end up in a ditch! I’m going to destroy my life!
And you know what? It never just destroys me but then the ripples, I destroy and mess up other people. Don’t we all know that? Don’t we all have friends, we saw it coming, the marriage broke up, the partnership broke apart, the kid was going astray, we didn’t say anything, and then, bang! It destroyed them, then other people, then other people, then other people. You see?
Admonition is God’s antibiotic in the body of Christ. Sin is like an infection, it’s like cancer cells. Admonition needs to come early and hard and lovingly. Bombard that infection with the antibiotic of God’s truth, spoken in love.
You save people. Where would I be if someone didn’t say, “You’re a lazy preacher.” I’d still be giving lazy sermons and I’ll tell you what, God wouldn’t be using them the way He is now. Where would you be if some of the people, when we prayed in the service, and you thanked God for the person who spoke the truth into your life, where would you be if they would have said, “Well, I don’t want her not to like me,” where would you be?
The final reason is because we are members of one another, Romans 12:4 and 5 says, “We are members of one another,” just like a human body. Once someone we respect crosses the line of Scripture, not our standards, but of Scripture, unchecked, it’s like a herd of sheep. We follow and the Church loses its salt and its light. When sin is not dealt with, it soon becomes the status quo.
You’ve read the reports, right? One out of four Americans claim - what? That they are born again in America! How can this be? One out of four people in America claim they have a personal, life-giving, eternal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is a holy God, who is Creator, who is all-powerful.
Now, I’ve only got one or two options on this when I look at the divorce rate in America, the lack of integrity in America, the morals in America, the education in America, when one out of every four Christian is a Christian that’s salt and light, there are only two options here.
One, a lot of people lie or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Or the other, which I think, I think they are sincere. They are not salty. And they are not light. And somewhere along the line, this is the way it happens. We all know the Bible says this, and that’s wrong and this is right.
And then some respected leader, or some group, does that and we turn and think, “I always thought that was wrong.” That verse, “I guess maybe that verse doesn’t mean what it just clearly says.”
“Well, he is a leader and that’s a big organization.” Or, “That’s an influential church,” so guess what happens? People do it, and then people do it, and then people do it.
So, we have a Church full of people instead of sharpening one another to love and to good works and to holiness and to righteousness and to purity, we’ve got a whole group of people always looking at someone who is less holy and saying, “You know, other Christians are doing this. Other Christians watch that. Other Christians do this with their money. Other Christians let their kids do this. Other Christians…”
And you know what we have? We’ve got a pathetic, sick, anemic Church that basically the driving pulse of the Church in America of Jesus Christ is how individual Christians can be comfortable, can be happy, be self-fulfilled, and get their needs met, and if this church doesn’t do it, I’ll find one that does.
And the calling of the Church of Jesus Christ is to be salt, to be light, to be leaven, to be holy, to be righteous, to be a kingdom of priests, to be “other!” Not prudish, not down your nose at people, but in a winsome, godly, holy way, live a separate life.
You know why that doesn’t happen? Because there’s not much antibiotic going on. All of us are telling our wives or our friends about things we see in people’s lives instead of telling them.
Now, it’s important, isn’t it? So, what have we said? We have said that this is really important, that God commands it, that it will develop deep relationships, that we all need it, that it’ll protect the Church. The logical question is - let’s see, God commands it, I need it, it’ll help me, it’ll help others - why don’t we do it?
Let me give you three reasons. Reason number one you already know about, don’t you? Confrontation is difficult. Some of us would rather die than bring up tough stuff with people. We are peacekeepers instead of peace makers.
Peacekeepers, status quo, status quo, don’t rock the boat, don’t rock the boat, don’t be mad at me, like me, like me, like me, everything is okay, everything is okay. It’s called pseudo-peace.
That just means that you’re putting wood on the fire, you’re putting plutonium tubes into the reactor because, man, it’s going to blow up. That’s what peacekeepers do.
Peace makers say, “Let’s get it on the table, let’s deal with this now while it’s small, while it’s manageable.” We hate confrontation, I hate confrontation, I loathe it. Every time I know, “Oh man, I’ve gotta address this?” I get a big knot in my stomach and then I usually can’t sleep the night before, it’s always a hundred times bigger in my mind than, now I have learned, it really plays out to be.
But after I have seen the havoc and pain that not speaking the truth in love produces, I’ll tell you what, I’m so committed to this, our staff would say, “He is. He is so committed to it, it’s scary.” I want to receive it and I want to give it because what I learned is the pain is too great when we don’t.
The second reason we don’t do it is we feel inadequate. Honestly, part of you are thinking, “Yeah, maybe I should. I see this in this in this person’s life but, you know, this is like the kettle calling the pot black. I mean, who am I to speak into another person’s life? I mean, I struggle with this and this and this and this and…” Well, I’m going to talk about that. But at least go through the logic.
If you wait until you’re perfect to speak into another person’s life, when will you speak? No time soon. Now, there are some competencies, prerequisites before you speak, but you’re adequate. In fact, having to speak will cause you to grow.
Third, we don’t know how. I think this is one of the big ones. I mean, you feel it, you’re emotional, “I gotta say something, but I don’t know how! I just don’t know how! What do I do?” We’re going to tell you very specifically how to do it.
So, at this point, in that wrestling match in your mind, I’m praying that God’s winning and that you’re getting to the point where that person, that friend, coworker, that child, that person you’re in ministry with, that person that has drifted away, that person that is involved in an illicit affair, that person that you know is struggling in an area…
I’m praying that if you’re right at the point now where you’re saying, “God, okay, I don’t want to do this, You know I don’t want to do it, but You commanded it, this is the most loving thing I could do. God, if You will show me how, I am open. But I feel inadequate. What do You want to do in me first? How prepared do I need to be?”
The question then becomes, “Who is really competent to admonish?” From Romans 15:14 and from the rest of the New Testament, I think there are three characteristics, before you go out and speak to anyone, these three things need to be a part of your life and your experience.
First, it requires a life full of goodness. Did you see that in the line? He says, “I’m fully convinced that you are,” what? “full of goodness.” This term, in general, means that we are living a holy, righteous life. The idea is that we are going to clean up our own act before we’re going to move into another’s life and clean up theirs.
Now, a classic passage on this is usually misquoted and even worse, it’s misapplied. Jesus’ words, our culture has got this one down though. Matthew 7, right? 3 through 5. “Who are you,” right? “Who are you to take the speck out of your brother’s eye when you have a log in your own eye?” Right? We have heard that.
So, anytime you go to anyone and you say, “You know, I really need to talk with you. I’ve observed some things and I don’t mean they’re my opinions, this is black and white. This is really clear in the Scripture. I want you to know I love you.”
And the immediate response is, “Who are you to speak into my life?” Read that passage this afternoon carefully, will you? It’s very interesting. It is a warning. It says, “Clean up your heart, your life, let God examine you, get the log out of your eye before you take the speck out of your brother or your sister’s eye. You hypocrite,” it goes on to say. And then you know what it says? The assumption is you will take the speck out of their eye.
It is not, “Never do that.” The actual application is just the opposite. Read it carefully! The application is, “Deal with your own life first, so that you will, in fact, take the speck out of their life.”
And so let me ask you, what is it that you need to deal with, personally and privately, before you go talk to that friend? Where is God speaking to you where you need to say, “God, I’m sorry, I need to repent, I need to deal with that so that I can go talk to them.”
The second requirement is not only a life full of goodness but it requires a life filled with knowledge, same passage, Romans 15:14. The idea here is that you are filled with God’s Word. We must be careful to admonish with regard to the absolutes of Scripture, not in areas that are extra-biblical.
When you go and talk to someone, this can’t be your opinion about something. This is not where you admonish them, “You know, I really think you should be shopping at Safeway instead of Nob Hill.” That’s really none of your business. “You know, I really don’t think that these kind of fashions and those kind of fashions, or those kind of shoes, or whether you ought to wear lipstick or not,” and all that jazz. This is about knowing God’s Word and in very clear, black and white, biblical issues you speak into people’s lives.
I did a little word study, let me give you twelve or fifteen specific areas in the New Testament where we have examples. If you want to know, like, where do we have freedom to admonish? Concerning false teachers, Acts 20:21. When people are involved in any kind of false teaching or false teaching is moving in, we ought to step in.
Concerning false doctrine, II Timothy 4; concerning disunity in personal relationships, Philippians 4, when people are at each other’s throat we need to step in; concerning immoral behavior, I Corinthians 5; concerning diligence in corporate and individual prayer or the study of God’s Word. You see people sliding in those disciplines.
Concerning the health and wellbeing of another, I Timothy 4. Paul says, “Hey Timothy, let me admonish you. You need to get your diet right because I’m concerned about your health.”
There may be someone to whom you say, “What you’re drinking, what you’re putting in your body, or how you’re working is killing you. I love you, I’m going to speak to you.”
Concerning boldness and identifying with Christ, II Timothy 1:7 and 8; concerning how to relate to the opposite sex, both before and after marriage, I Corinthians 7; concerning perseverance and endurance through trials when people are ready to give up, II Timothy 4:4, James 1; concerning materialism and money, I Timothy 6; concerning the use or the neglect of your spiritual gift, I got that one; concerning gossip, spreading rumors, giving false or misleading or malicious reports, I Peter 2; concerning pride or arrogance in a person’s life, I Corinthians 4; concerning the loving of the brethren.
Those are all black and white issues. Those are issues that when you see them in my life you have a moral responsibility to come and say to me, “Chip, I see materialism creeping into you life…” Or at least, “I see some things I don’t understand.”
“Chip, I see arrogance or pride creeping into your life as evidenced by these comments that you made the last three weekends; Chip, I have this inkling of immoral behavior in light of seeing you walk out of that building and that building with this woman that I didn’t know. Now, tell me it’s your sister or tell me you were sharing Christ in there, fine!” Do you get it? But you gotta be filled with the Word.
Finally, and I think this is the most important. You can err almost anywhere but don’t err here, the third characteristic is it requires a heart filled with love. It’s the whole passage, Romans 15:14 he says, “Brothers.” I Corinthians 4:14 he admonishes them and he says, “Not to shame you but as,” listen, “as beloved children.”
Acts 20:31 when he’s talking with these elders, and he’s warning them and he’s admonishing. He says, “You remember when I was with you how night and day, with tears, I did it out of love.” II Thessalonians 3:15, “As a brother.” Ephesians 6:4, “As a father does children.”
Well, we’re at that point where let’s talk about how to do it. I believe by this time probably most of you are at least pondering or thinking about someone you really love, you know there’s an area in their life that if it continues, it will destroy them, it may destroy a family, it will mar the testimony of Christ, it will bring destruction into their life, and God will not use them. It will completely render them useless, if unchecked.
So, how do you do it? Let me just give you a real step-by-step plan. First, examine your own life, okay? Examine your own life. Get before God, get alone, get your Bible open, say, “God, if there is something that I need to address before I talk with them, show me.” Sit quietly, He’ll show you.
Second, examine the Word. Whatever the issue is, you don’t go to people with something vague. What helped me was, every time people have admonished me that have really helped me, they shared a passage. The authority is not you and your opinions. The authority is Scripture.
You come alongside as a brother or sister, “I care,” and you say, “I care about you and see this truth, right here? What I perceive so far is your life doesn’t align with that truth,” and you show them the truth, you read it to them lovingly, caringly.
Third, examine your motives. On our staff we have a little saying: If you can’t say it in love, don’t say it. Keep praying until you can. That doesn’t mean you get off the hook. If you’re angry and hacked off, which, by the way, often is how you start off with people, right?
“I’m angry and hacked off because she said this and she said this and…” and you realize they got a major problem in their life. Well, you don’t get to go until you go because your one goal is you care about them.
Fourth, set a time to meet privately. Don’t get all fired up about this and bump into them in the hall and say, “Hey, by the way,” people everywhere, “I’d like to really admonish you.” Don’t do that.
Five, ask specific questions to confirm data and disarm the situation. You know, sometimes you do have data and it may not, it may look one way but ask a few probing questions before you make some fiat statements.
I remember once a staff member came into my office and looked around, shut the door and, this is how I remember it in my mind. It may not be quite as big but it was kind of funny.
And he looked around and he said, “Could I talk to you just a second?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Boy, that’s a nice picture of your wife over there and your kids over here,” and he looked at me with a, “Who is this real pretty girl right up here? I mean, right out here. Who is this woman in your office?”
And it was, like, “You know, I really think this is inappropriate, I mean…” I said, “It’s my sister.” And then I said, “Thanks, I appreciate it. I think she’s kind of cute too.” But you know what? It sent a message and he was asking a question to confirm the data. See, that’s what you gotta do. Because you may find out they were sharing Christ in that bar. Or that was an innocent relationship. So, ask before you leap in.
Sixth, tenderly point out the sin, show them the Scripture that applies to them. Open your Bible, show them.
Seventh, if possible, develop a game plan, timetable, and follow-up meeting for support and follow through. Now, I say, “If possible,” because, now, I’m going to warn you, my experience is against this. My experience is whenever you really love someone and you go in love, and you go in tears, and you really care, ninety percent of the time the response is very, very positive. But not always.
See, the issue is not how they respond. That’s not your responsibility. The issue is will you do what God wants you to do? What they do with the truth spoken in love is their responsibility.
But if possible, you don’t go just to dump it and say, “Well, good, now have you got it?” But then you say, “Okay, what’s a game plan? What’s a timetable?” Who, it may not even be you, but who could help you deal with this area? Do you need to get in a Bible study or there’s a group of men or a group of women working on this or, you know, how do you help the person? The goal is to love them, bring them into line with God’s will and get help. Not for you to say, “Boy, I’m glad that’s over.”
Conclusion, admonition is God’s antibiotic for the Church - done biblically. Done biblically, it is the most loving thing you can ever do for all concerned.
Now, let me give you an action step, are you ready? Lean back just for a second, wrap it up. Take a deep breath, let me ask you a question, honestly, is there someone who needs to hear a word from God through you in your relational network? Yes or no? Just yes or no? Is there or not? I mean, no vague, no, oh, maybe or sort of…no. Is there someone whose life is in juxtaposition to what is the clear will of God?
Now, what are you going to do is another issue. But is there someone today, right now, that needs to hear from you? Yes or no? No, “I’ll think about it later.” No, I mean right now, is there or not?
Second, do you love them enough to speak to them this week? Yes or no? You can be honest and say, “No, I don’t love them that much. I don’t want to risk the relationship. I want to keep it superficial. If they are destroyed, if things happen, well, I can live with that but I’m not going to, I don’t want the rejection.” Okay, but yes or no? Do you love them enough to speak to them or not?
I’m kind of trapping you with these questions, aren’t I? By design and without apology. You could save a marriage. You could save a person’s life, you could save a person’s job, you could save a future, you could transform the entire course of a person’s life if you loved them enough to admonish them.
The final question, with God’s help, are you willing right now, today, to commit to pray, examine your own life, and then fill in the day this week that you’re going to go talk to them?
Imagine, imagine the health that could occur in this church alone if ninety-nine point nine percent of us would obey God in admonishing one another?