There are two places on this planet; one is the church the other is the world. We are either in the church or in the world. The church consists of those who are Christians and Christians demonstrate that they belong to the church by joining with and committing themselves to a local assembly of Christians. We learn much about the character of the church and the world when we look at Matthew 18:15-18. In this passage, someone, who has been guilty of sin, when challenged upon this issue refuses to repent and thereby is put out of the church into the world. This may sound harsh to our sensitive ears, but when you stop to ponder upon the matter the unrepentant offender is placing himself in the realm of the world and therefore the action taken only ratifies the decision the man has already made. To appreciate these things we have to get to the heart of what happens in the world and what happens in the church.
The world is that system which is arranged without reference to God. Millions of our fellow citizens operate their lives without referring to God and this is the essence of worldliness. Instead of thinking about God, people operate with reference to self. In the world “self” is the king. Accordingly, if people are challenged about whether something they say or do is right, they respond with self-defence or self-justification.
This approach to life has a long history. It started in the Garden of Eden. Rather than accept responsibility for their actions Adam and Eve both engaged in self-justification (see Genesis 3:12-13). Adam blamed his wife and Eve blamed the serpent! This is the world’s way of operating and it inevitably produces the blame culture in which we live. When we start to self-defend and self-justify we are soon blaming either our circumstances or the way the system operates or how badly other people treat us or anything else that conveniently springs to mind. People with worldly thinking run anywhere rather than take responsibility for their own actions and confess their sins.
So going back to our passage we find here someone who has been challenged from the Word of God about his actions. Notice he must be challenged from Scripture because it speaks of sin being committed and only Scripture confirms the committing of sin. To make sure no rash judgements have been reached first one or two others are brought in and then the church is made aware. It is fully established that sin has been committed, but the man refuses to repent. The man must therefore be put out of the church. It is important to note here as well that through this three stage process the man has had plenty of time to ponder upon his situation before God and the church and bring his heart to repentance.
The clear implication is that the church is a place of repentance. It is a place where sin is confessed and turned from. Sin against God is repented of and if this sin includes sinning against others then repentance towards the relevant other person(s) is forthcoming. Of course, this flows on from how we enter the church. We enter through repenting. We hear the Word of God which reveals our sin. We cannot become a Christian without repenting. We start living for Christ by repenting and we prove we have new life in Christ by continuing to repent. The world then is filled with self-defence and self-justification, however, the church should be filled with repentance
So the normal approach for the Christian when challenged from the Word about something in their life, which is proven to be sin is to accept, confess and repent. It is on this basis that we experience the forgiveness which flows from Jesus dying on the cross of Calvary. John says and note he says it to Christians that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness ( I John 1:9).
Repentance and forgiveness should be continually being experienced in church. Of course if these are not happening then we have lost all right to be called the church. An organisation can still take the name of a church, but it has really become a religious version of the world. It is like players in a football match deciding suddenly to catch the ball and run with it. If this happens they can no longer claim they are playing football. So a church which says it is acceptable not to repent of sin loses the right to be called a church.
Associated with this is the Lord Jesus removing Himself from the church. This reality is taught in the passage which follows; Matthew 18:18-20. Here the LORD indicates that if Matthew 18:15-17 is implemented then He is in agreement with it and promises to be with those who do it. Accordingly,we can conclude that if it is not then He withdraws His presence. This is seen in the Laodicean church in Rev. 2:14-22. This church has not repented of its bad ways, so the Lord urges them to do so in v19b. In such a situation he is outside (see Rev. 3:20)
So how is it with us at Feltham Evangelical Church are we a repentance place? Or are we a self-justification and self-defence place. If it is the latter then that is very very serious because we are really no longer a church, but are in fact a, religious version of the world. So let us each examine our hearts and be quick to repent of any sin which occurs in our lives.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of July 2010)