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Results from Obedience

BY CHARLES SWINDOLL

Quite frankly, I can think of few more powerful proofs that Christianity is the champion of purity than the compassionate efforts of one family member helping another brother or sister get out of the ditch. Even if it takes an initial jolt of up-front confrontation … or the full process of church discipline. Handled correctly, in a spirit of gentle, loving humility, it can result in the most beautiful, authentic display of repentance and grace one can imagine.

I greatly admire a particular congregation of believers who decided not to ignore the impure lifestyle of one of its members. The man, a Christian, was engaged in a series of illicit sexual relationships that began to bring shame to the name of Christ, not to mention the negative impact it was having on the local church to which he belonged. The leaders followed Christ’s guidelines in Matthew 18 as they attempted to rescue the man out of his sensual syndrome … all to no avail. He refused their counsel. Finally, the inevitable. With grieving hearts and in obvious humility, they bit the bullet as they brought the case before the church and placed the man under discipline, refusing to fellowship with him until he repented. It was incredibly heartwrenching, an agonizing episode in the lives of those in leadership. They loved the man too much to let him continue in immorality. The fact that they were acting in obedience to God and the hope that it would someday result in the man’s repentance and restoration we're the only reasons they could carry out such a difficult assignment. They were determined to preserve the purity of the church, no matter the sacrifice or cost.

Years passed before the awful silence was broken. God ultimately honored their obedience. He used their words and actions to bring that man to his knees, broken and repentant before the Lord of absolute holiness. As a result, he wrote an open letter of confession to the church, affirming their efforts, acknowledging his wrong, and declaring his need for forgiveness. With a few deletions, this is what he wrote:

My fellow Christians,

Several years ago the congregation … took public action against me in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20. The charges against me were true.

I cannot reverse history and relive the events that led up to my downfall. I have harmed many people and brought ruin to myself. Because I was an outspoken, prominent member of the Christian community, my sins have been all the more deplorable and horrendous.

Afler I became a Christian some 18 years ago, I failed to deal thoroughly with lust, covetousness and immorality. In time I became self-deceived, proud and arrogant. Moreover, eventually God shouted upon the housetops that which I had tried desperately to keep hidden … Twice I went through the horror and hell of manic-depressive psychoses (as Nebuchadnezzar did) that I might learn that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

I am very fortunate to be alive. I came very close to suicide and should have died in ignominy and disgrace…

I am in need of your forgiveness, for I have wronged you all. I earnestly desire your prayers for wholeness and complete deliverance…

It is impossible for me to retrace my footsteps and right every wrong. However, I welcome the opportunity to meet and pray with any individuals who have something against me that needs resolution. I am looking and waiting for the further grace and mercy of God in this matter. What you have bound on earth has been bound in heaven, and I now know your actions were done in love for my own good and that of the Body of Christ.
Charles R. Swindoll, senior pastor of the First Evangelical Church in Fullerton, Calif., is also known through his international radio Program, “Insight for Living,” and his books, which include Strike the Original Match; and Strengthening Your Grip.

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