Church discipline is not a “feel good” sort of thing. Neither the one being disciplined nor the one doing the discipline feels good about it … at least they shouldn’t. But, the purpose of disciplining is not to make people feel good but rather to help them become good … specifically, to become holy as God is holy. God’s discipline of His children provides a good example for us:
God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:10-11)
Until we understand this objective, we will be reticent to discipline when we should.
We must therefore grasp the following truths:
1) Holiness is God’s ultimate objective for the Church.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25-27)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Eph. 1:4)
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 4:7-8)
He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Tim. 1:9)
As church leaders, we need to be lining up with God’s objectives, not merely doing what feels good for us.
2) God is the standard for holiness.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8)
As church leaders, we need to remember that we should be asking people to conform to God, not what feels good.
3) Sin is serious and has consequences because it goes against God’s holiness … so serious Jesus had to die to take the punishment our sin deserves.
For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:22)
we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb. 10:10)
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (Heb. 13:12)
As church leaders, we need to grieve over sin in our own lives as well as those we lead. We cannot merely dismiss or tolerate it without negative effects on both the erring person and the Body as a whole.
4) God’s intent in saving us is that we leave our life of sin and become holy as He is holy.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:14-16)
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Pet. 2:11-12)
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thess. 4:7)
Church leaders, are you going far enough in the discipleship process, seeking God to change lives, not just bring them in to the Church, helping them to “be” Christ-like, not just “do” what they should?
When we truly understand and accept these realities then we also understand that the objective of any church discipline should be that of helping people become holy, not making them feel good or bad about themselves. That differs from punishing or condemning people because the objective is to build up, not destroy.