Forgiven Much, but Can't Forgive | Matthew 18:23-35

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heavy_laden

A Personal Testimony...

Mat 18:23 "Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.
Mat 18:24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.
Mat 18:25 He couldn't pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
Mat 18:26 "But the man fell down before his master and begged him, 'Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.'
Mat 18:27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
Mat 18:28 "But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
Mat 18:29 "His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. 'Be patient with me, and I will pay it,' he pleaded.
Mat 18:30 But his creditor wouldn't wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
Mat 18:31 "When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.
Mat 18:32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.
Mat 18:33 Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?'
Mat 18:34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
Mat 18:35 "That's what My heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart."

A Long Forgotten Enemy Returns

About 2 years ago an enemy walked back into my life uninvited and unwanted. He was a source of pain -  someone who had hurt me in the past - someone I didn't want to deal with ever again. I couldn't believe that he had the audacity to march into my world after 5 years of peace, quiet and safety.

When he first walked through the door, questions began bouncing around in my head like ricocheting bullets;

"Why now?" "Who invited him?" "What does he want?" "How should I act?" "What should I do or say?"

My world was my self-righteous life. My territory was my church and the friends I'd made in that church. My enemy was a previous close friend from that church. My so-called peace was my lack of understanding of God's character and how He really works with us.

The Back Story

Before we go on much further with this testimony, I should explain some of the back story. My enemy, Ken, was a very close friend prior to this event. We had done many things together. We shared a love for Jesus and studied the Bible together. We experienced a closeness that comes from mutual interests and spending time together. We did things for each other; celebrated birthdays and had many wonderful weekends camping, swimming, laughing, and at times even crying. We were good and close friends.

Then enters the mess called life...

Stress and painful circumstances splashed into the public swimming pool of our daily existence causing us both to feel out of control and on edge. I was going through a painful divorce and Ken was going though a stressful situation that he couldn't fully reveal to me. Forces unseen and heavy loads pushed us both over the edge - resulting in a huge explosion of emotion. At that time Ken had an anger control problem and it boiled over, mean and nasty, and I was hurt. Hurtful things were said by both and our friendship was damaged. Afterward, there was a weak attempt at reconciliation but the real enemy had already started weaving it's web.

The Real Enemy Strikes

Who is the real enemy you ask? It was self righteousness and it was strong and cunning. I had no idea that it was there waiting, coiled and full of tension, ready to strike at the perfect moment. The moment arrived and there I was ready and willing to receive the poison - at times I even asked for more.

Funny how poison so often tastes sweet...

I started telling my side of the drama to anyone that would listen and my side was pretty compelling. Here I was the poor man with an autistic son going through a divorce, having a low level job and with bankruptcy looming over my head - who wouldn't want to give me sympathy, right?

Everyone did...

My story of woe and despair was also one of chastisement toward Ken. How dare he! He broke my trust, he was mean and selfish in my time of need. How could anyone treat another person like that? I needed people to be on my side. He deserved to be punished and everyone needed to know how he hurt me.

Self righteousness is a slow acting poison, but when it reaches the heart it quickly affects the whole body, mind and spirit. The stories I told of personal hurt were slathered in false humility and concern for Ken. The reality of what I was really doing was hidden even to myself as self righteousness became my drink-of-choice fully toxifying my still beating heart. This left no room for Jesus - no room for Him to teach me. But God never gives up on us!

The Enemy Returns - The Savior is Pushing

Back to the beginning of the story. Here comes my enemy, the one I had spent so much time destroying in the minds of others. The one that I worked so hard to exorcise from my life; and here he was, daring to show his face to me again. The audacity!

The confusion...

"Why God? What does this mean? What do You want me to do with this? I thought this was taken care of? I mean, I did say the magic words, 'I forgive you', what more do You want?"

The questions were many, and the Holy Spirit was working on my heart. There had to be a reason that this was happening after 5+ years of peace. This was big news in my life. And again, I shared my sinful burden...with everyone. Really I was just trying to get them to pick sides. Why? Because reconciliation had never really happened. The poison was working well. 

There is an antidote...

What I didn't know is that the new pastor in our church had been praying for a couple that he didn't even know  from the moment he first heard their story. That couple was Ken and his wife. I had no idea God was at work behind the scenes, gently pushing us all in the right direction. Why did I have no idea? Because I couldn't hear His voice; I didn't know Him.

Next, the pastor entered into discussions with Ken and his wife; discussions that began a process I had little experience with...True Godly Reconciliation. The pastor started asking members of the church if they would be willing to share in this process. I was one of them. He came to my house and asked me how I felt about it. I, being full of poison, said, "Do you know what Ken did to me? "  He said no and so I launched into my story of woe and despair once again.

It was such an easy story to tell...

My story didn't seem to sway the pastor the same way it had others. He lightly commiserated with me and then reminded me of why he was there and what it would take for me to participate. He asked if I would be willing to write out truthfully all the ways that Ken had hurt me and be willing to face Ken, allowing him the opportunity to ask for forgiveness. I said I would have to pray about it and see what God wanted me to do. And I did pray...

Pushed - Over the Edge

Prayer became my time to reiterate to God all the questions that were bouncing around in my head. There were a lot of "Why's" and "How's" and "What's"; but now they were focused on the concept of forgiveness...

"Why do I have to forgive this man who hurt me?"

"What does forgiveness really look and feel like?"

"I can say I forgive him, but I don't have to like him or trust him, do I?"

"How can I forgive this man who hurt me?"

..and I sincerely wanted to know the answers. These questions led me to the Word of God. What better place to find the answers to your questions about forgiveness, right?

God very gently showed me His Wisdom in Matthew 18 through the story of the debtor. Then He showed me the story of the prodigal son and the lost sheep and the lost coin and Peter and, and, and...the stories were everywhere.

Not a single one justified my behavior...

No verse or story taught me that Ken was singularly wrong and I was right. Every single one was directly focused on my behavior and how I had treated Ken. It was personal and didn't give me permission to make my problem someone elses. I was led to self-reflection and what I saw was not righteousness, but a sin polluted self righteous heart.

Now I saw that I was the debtor who owed God 1 million dollars. I was baptized. I claimed and experienced God's forgiveness. I walked in the glory of knowing the Jesus had died for my sins and had forgiven me every wrong and every sin in my life.

I was free, or so I thought...

However, Matthew 18 reminded me that my behavior was not how someone who is forgiven so much should act. I was the one who "went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars, grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment." I had done this to Ken. I had held anger and resentment and, worst of all, self righteousness in my heart. God showed me, through the last few verses in Matthew 18...

Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt."That's what My heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart."

...that I didn't really get His forgiveness. I had brought the debt back onto myself by not showing the same mercy and love that I experienced from God to others.

God freely gives us forgiveness. It is there for the asking and the receiving. But, you can also give it back. You can decide that you really want to take care of that debt yourself by not returning the forgiveness of debt to someone else.

Luke 12:48  But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. 

Over the Edge but Climbing Up

With God's Grace and help from the Holy Spirit I saw my sin for what it was. He pointed out to me how I had spent so much time and energy damaging Ken. How I had spent so much time building up self, in my own heart and in the hearts of others. Then God asked me to share this with Ken in our reconciliation meeting.That was hard, really hard, but I told Ken the things he had done that hurt me and he sincerely asked for forgiveness; but then I also told Ken the things that I had done to hurt him and I sincerely asked him for forgiveness.

Hallelujah! This is what God wanted for me all along!

Now there was real forgiveness. Now there was full reconciliation. Now there was freedom. Now there was joy! Now I could trust in God's forgiveness and I could freely give it to others. What a blessing.

I praise God for this. He is so amazing! This is a testimony of the power in God's forgiveness, seven years in the making. Ken is now finding his way back into his church family. There are still some struggles but we are both the better for having gone through this process with God. I hate to think where my life might be if this had never happened.

I might still be asleep....... spiritually asleep under the poisoned blanket of self righteousness.

Seventy Times Seven! | Matthew 18:21-22

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forgiveness-funny
Mat 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" Mat 18:22 "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven!

There are a couple of questions to consider regarding this small passage of scripture before actually diving into the meaning.

1. How was forgiveness viewed by the people at this time?

It was a settled rule of Rabbinism that forgiveness should not be extended more than three times. Even so, the practice was terribly different. The Talmud relates, without blame, the conduct of a rabbi who would not forgive a very small slight of his dignity, though asked by the offender for thirteen successive years, and that on the day of atonement; the reason being that the offended rabbi had learned by a dream that his offending brother would attain the highest dignity; whereupon he feigned himself irreconcilable, to force the other to migrate from Palestine to Babylon, where, unenvied by him, he might occupy the chief place (Edersheim). It must, therefore, have seemed to Peter a stretch of charity to extend forgiveness from three to seven times. Christ is not specifying a number of times greater than the limit of seven. He means that there is to be no limit. “Forgiveness is qualitative, not quantitative.” Vincent's Word Studies

We could say then that Peter was probably feeling pretty generous by bringing in an amount of forgiveness that was over twice as great as was customarily thought to be the maximum amount. He even used the number 7 which was the number of completeness.

The number seven was the general symbol for all association with God, and was the favorite religious number of Judaism, typifying the covenant of holiness and sanctification, and also all that was holy and sanctifying in purpose. The candlestick had seven lamps, and the acts of atonement and purification were accompanied by a sevenfold sprinkling. The establishment of the Sabbath, the Sabbatical year, and the year of jubilee was based on the number seven, as were the periods of purification and of mourning. The number 7 is the Divine number of completion. Wikipedia

Peter was zealously trying to understand Jesus' teaching, and we can use his experience to learn for ourselves what God means by forgiveness.

2. Why is Peter bringing in this question at this time?

It is important that we continue to remember the overarching context in which this interaction takes place. Remember the question asked by the disciples in Matthew 18:1?

In light of where they started, Peter now seems to be trying to show his "understanding" of what Jesus had just taught. He brings in the question of forgiveness and the amount we should extend to someone who sins against us. This tells me something not only about Peter's mindset, but about how he perceived the previous teaching from Jesus.

He did understand that one of the big points Jesus was trying to bring out regarding the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, was their ability to forgive. Peter got a sense of how Jesus was describing the "greatest" but he missed the boat when he interjected his own understanding and his own level of generosity. Peter thought he was displaying wisdom and understanding when he gave the amount of forgiveness as 7 times, but Jesus blows him away with an even bigger number. This number represented God's forgiveness extended to all mankind, but it also represented what the "greatest" should be able to do.

What can we learn from Peter's example and from Jesus?

I picked up on a couple of things. Peter interjected his own understanding when asking Jesus a question. On the surface there is nothing wrong with this; however, in practice we do this too often when learning from the Master. There was nothing wrong with Peter's question; but I am now asking myself why he felt the need to interject his own understanding into the question. Maybe we could learn even more from Jesus if we simply asked the questions without already having put ourselves into the answer.

Another thing I picked up on is the connection between this interaction with Peter and Jesus, and the original question that brought up the teaching in the first place. This is all about the disciples desire to understand who is or will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a good question, even if their motives for asking it started out a wee bit corrupt. Jesus took the opportunity to answer one of the questions that we should ALL be asking ourselves. He explains it in many different ways so that we can comprehend it from different angles. Do you ever ask yourself this question...

What is it that can make me a usable member; maybe even the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

If you haven't, go ahead and ask. Now that you've asked the question read Matthew 18 for the answer... directly from the mouth of the Master. Thank you Jesus!

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank You for being willing to answer our questions, even when the motivation is off kilter. Thank You for showing us what it means to be the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank You for leading us and guiding us. Thank You for Your Grace.

Protect and watch over my family. I ask also that You will show me Your Will for my life. I want to follow You completely and with a real conviction of the heart. I want to receive the Holy Spirit and I ask for it to be given to me today. Use me in any way You can. Amen.

 

I AM There Among Them | Matthew 18:18-20

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Mat 18:18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. Mat 18:19 "I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you. Mat 18:20 For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them."

This is a promise from Jesus to his disciples. This is the summation statement to His answering of the question; "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven". Jesus has just used parables and examples to describe a person that is the greatest. Let's take a quick look at the biblical characteristics of "The Greatest".

They would...

"..turn from your sins.." [Matt 18:3] ".. become like little children.."  [Matt 18:3] "..humble as this little child.." [Matt 18:4] "..welcomes a little child.." [Matt 18:5] "..cut it off.." (what you do to something causing sin in your life) [Matt 18:8] "..gouge it out.." (what you do to something you see causing sin in your life) [Matt 18:9] "..search for the one that is lost." [Matt 18:12] "..rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn't wander away!" [Matt 18:13] "..go privately and point out the offense." [Matt 18:15] "..win(s) that person back." [Matt 18:15] "..(take) witnesses with you and go back again.." [Matt 18:15] "..take your case to the church (body of Christ) [Matt 18:17] "..treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector." [Matt 18:17] 

*Please refer to the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12 for a definition of how a pagan or corrupt tax collector should be treated.

They would not...

"..cause one of these little ones who trusts Me to fall into sin.." [Matt 18:6] "..tempt people to sin.." [Matt 18:7] ".. look down on little ones.." [Matt 18:10] "..have the will that even one of these little ones should perish.."[Matt 18:14]

Now that He has established the characteristics of the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom that is already here on earth, Jesus is going to tell us what He has in store for those who are greatest. Please note that He doesn't just randomly give this power for no reason.  This power from heaven is given to those who are greatest.

"I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven." [Matthew 18:18]

Wow! That's quite a lot of power. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want someone who was NOT the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven to have that kind of power and authority. It sure is a good thing that Jesus has clearly laid out for us who the greatest are, otherwise I might be tempted to give this kind of authority to people who would misuse it. I might be tempted to give it to someone who was charismatic, smooth talking, self important, boisterous, demanding, self righteous, good looking, charming, rich, powerful, influential or any of the other worldly traits I am so easily attracted to.

"I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you".[Matthew 18:19]

Where two or three gather together

Wait a minute! There's even more power being handed out. I love it. Oh, but... but now He says I have to involve someone else to receive this power. Hmmmm...this complicates things a bit. Maybe Jesus is saying this so that I will be careful to ask for things that would be acceptable to the body of Christ. Maybe He wants me to discuss requests for the Father in Heaven with other parts of the body of Christ, like in church, a prayer meeting or a small group study. I know that I can't always trust my wants and desires. Thank You Jesus for Your amazing wisdom!

"For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them." [Matthew 18:20]

Okay, now He's really driving home the point. He's making a beautiful promise to us here. Notice that he culminates the whole teaching into the one statement. If we gather together as His followers, He will be with us. We can count on Him to be there guiding us, protecting us, giving us what we need and showing us where to go. But we must be gathered together as His followers...as the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

...if only we knew what those people looked like.... :)

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank You so much for the wisdom and understanding You bring into my life. What a blessing to be able to study Your Word and know that it is good and wise and powerful; not only because You said it is, but because it proves itself to be just that. Thank You for what You did for me on the cross. I accept it and I will walk in faith today knowing that I am saved by You. You are Wonderful. You are an Amazing God! I love You so much!! I ask that You would come into me today so that You can shine out of me. I ask for the Holy Spirit.

I ask You now to please watch over my children. Heal my son Lord and continue to pursue my children. I love them both very much and I know that You love them even more. I ask all these things in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

When do we get to stop trying? | Matthew 18:15-17

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Church_intervention

When do we get to stop trying? | Part 3

How do I, as a Christian, play a part in the redemption of the Lost Sheep? What can I do to help bring them back to the fold?

Mat 18:15  
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
Mat 18:16
 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Mat 18:17  
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

As a recap, let's quickly refresh on the beginning of Step 1.

Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, a parable which finished with this statement:

In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Remembering that this whole teaching, from Matthew 18:3-35, is in response to the question that the disciples asked Jesus; “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”, let’s move on.

Usually when there is a parable being used to teach a concept it is followed with the explanation of the concept. In this case Jesus does that very thing. He now explains the process for dealing with “a lost sheep“, or, as we see it explained, a fellow believer.

What are the steps in the process?

The steps escalate as time goes on and they are all contingent upon the “sheep” remaining lost. At any point in the process if the believer realizes his lost state (confession) and seeks to return to the fold, he or she does not need the next step. So let’s look at each step individually, and then as a whole process.

Step 1 & 2:“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. ” Matthew 18:15   But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Mat 18:16

If you have not read Part 1 and 2 of this 3 part series you should do that first. START HERE __________________________________

Step 3: Or as I like to refer to it, Defcon 6. This is the final stage. If you have unfortunately made it all the way to this point then you have been struggling mightily for quite some time and may even be tempted to become short tempered, irritable and worst of all...self righteous. Don't do it, your not off the hook yet.

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you-go-back

So, did you do the first two steps in the right spirit? In the Holy Spirit? Before entering step 3 it might be a good idea to ask yourself,

"Did I do steps 1 and 2 according to Jesus' counsel?

"Should I go back and do it right?"

Remind yourself that you are in the business of winning souls back to Jesus. You are a minister for Christ Jesus. This is no simple process to be taken lightly and dealt with quickly.

It is a travesty that you have gotten to this spot in the first place. Where is the spirit of the good shepherd? [Romans 15:13] Is He leading you? Ask yourself; is it the most important thing to you to have this person back in the fold, or are you just "playing church" so that everyone else will say you did the steps? Question your motives and ask God to reveal to you what will really bring back HIS lost sheep. [Psalm 139:23] So, what am I trying to say in so many words...?

It's not all about you!

Okay, now that you've been thoroughly rebuked, let's go through a quick checklist:

  • You completed step 1 and did it with an open mind and a contrite spirit.
  • You entered into this process without any of the problems mentioned in Romans 1:29.
  • You have been following Jesus' counsel clearly and step-by-step, and reluctantly entered step 2
  • Your desire has always been to "win that person back".
  • You really want to go back to Step 1 but God is clearly telling you it's time for step 3

If all of the above are true, then it's time for step 3. Are you getting the point? I knew you would...

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mule

"If the person still refuses to listen,..." Okay, we now know for sure that this lost sheep has a hearing problem. I wonder if the problem is that they are not hearing you or if it is that they are not hearing the Holy Spirit? Hmmmm...what do you think? Suffice it to say, they are deaf as a door knob.

"...Take your case to the church..." This implies that you must take what you know and the testimony of the witnesses used in step 2 to your church body.

This church body is hopefully the body of Christ which means that they will first and foremost want to handle the situation with utmost care and love. A humble spirit will help to find a way to make a decision that is Holy Spirit led.

They will understand that they are a body and will consider removal of this person as painful a process as having a limb amputated. They are only removing it because it would cause more damage to the body if it stayed attached. You go to the church body with the same attitude, never seeking to just "make your case" but with a humble spirit seeking to bring as much clarity to the situation as possible. After all, we wouldn't want to amputate the wrong arm....(think on that for a spell)

"...Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision..." Okay, we can now assume that the church has made a decision. But what we can't assume is that the church body has made a drastic decision. They may have made a decision that included keeping the "arm" and giving it more time to heal. They may have decided to continue to treat the "arm" with loving medicine in hopes that it will become a useful and strong arm again. Amputation is a drastic measure after all.

The "if he or she won't accept" implies however, that they do need to amputate. So, the procedure is implemented with the utmost care and the arm is removed.

"...treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector." Maintaining our amputation analogy, what do we now have? Well, it seems that we have a disembodied arm laying around. Are we being called by Jesus to throw it in the trash? Nope, we are called to treat it even better than before. Treat it as a bionic arm replacement. Treat it as a bionic arm that could be grafted back into the body if only we could find a way to build it better, faster, stronger. (Sorry, I seem to be slipping into a 6 Million Dollar Man analogy)

bionics
bionics

I think that Jesus is asking us to be smart enough to know that he spent time with pagans and tax collectors. He showed them kindness. He wants us to be willing to humbly seek to gain them back. They should be visited and evangelized and most of all LOVED.

Dear reader, how have you handled conflicts in your church. Have you been the source of healing? Have you been the one seeking after the lost sheep, or the one holding the scalpel in your hand? Have you followed the beautiful and timeless counsel of your Savior?

Oh yeah, by the way. Did you wonder why the title of this series was "When do we get to stop trying?" Do you know the answer to that question now? I thought you might.

The answer is NEVER! Jesus made this clear when He said we have to "treat them like a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. These should be evangelized...these should be sought after as souls for Christ...always.

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

I ask that You will please always remind me of this amazing counsel any time I am involved in a dispute. Remind me to use You as You want me to. Thank You so much for the wisdom You have given us in Your word. Thank you for taking my place on the cross.

Be with my family, church body and friends. Give us the gift of the Holy Spirit and prepare us to be a body with You at the head. I love you Lord. Amen

When do we get to stop trying? | Matthew 18:15-17

How do I, as a Christian, play a part in the redemption of the Lost Sheep? What can I do to help bring them back to the fold?

Mat 18:15  
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
Mat 18:16  
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Mat 18:17  
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

As a recap, let's quickly refresh on the beginning of Step 1.

Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, a parable which finished with this statement:

In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Remembering that this whole teaching, from Matthew 18:3-35, is in response to the question that the disciples asked Jesus; “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”, let’s move on.

Usually when there is a parable being used to teach a concept it is followed with the explanation of the concept. In this case Jesus does that very thing. He now explains the process for dealing with “a lost sheep“, or, as we see it explained, a fellow believer.

What are the steps in the process?

The steps escalate as time goes on and they are all contingent upon the “sheep” remaining lost. At any point in the process if the believer realizes his lost state (confession) and seeks to return to the fold, he or she does not need the next step. So let’s look at each step individually, and then as a whole process.

Step 1:“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. ” Matthew 18:15

If you have not read Part 1 of this 3 part series you should do that first. START HERE ____________________________________

Step 2: "But if you are unsuccessful..." We are now entering Step two of this three step process. Notice that is starts with the word "but". So, we must, from the start, remember that this step is only started if the first step was unsuccessful.

What does this protect us from doing?

This is basically a warning to not enter into Step 2 unless Step 1 has been completely explored and has been unsuccessful. Too often we want to do a quick drive by with step one, claim that it didn't work and then jump to step 2 so that we can "get people on our side" before the whole mess spreads. Notice that the onus is on YOU. If you were unsuccessful. This means that you had entered step 1 fully trying to succeed in bringing back a brother. I also think that it implies that the people you might bring in with you during step 2 should ask you if you have fully explored step 1 before they try to help you with step 2.

Like step one we notice that most of the movement at this point is being done by the offended and not the one that did the offending.

"...take one or two others with you and go back again..." Assuming we were unsuccessful with step one we now must seek out 2 or 3 witnesses (other people) to take with us and go back to the lost sheep. The numbers mentioned here are significant. We are not asked to go back with just 1 person because that person may not be an impartial party. They may be a friend to you and might tend to want to lean in your direction. Jesus seems to be at this point recognizing that the truth needs to come out. Also notice that this says nothing about bringing church leadership into the mix. There is nowhere implied that the 2 or 3 need to be elders or deacons. In fact, I would submit that it might not be a good idea to involve them in step 2. This is about making sure that truth comes out and that both sides of the story are witnessed. The witnesses should be peers. You could even say that our judicial system by its' use of a jury understands this principle. 

"...so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses." The word confirmed implies that we are in the business at this step of finding out the truth. Making sure that both sides are heard by multiple people so that the "he said, she said" problem does not enter into the equation. This is really a mediation step. Many misunderstandings can be solved through mediation. It is common practice today for a judge to order mediation to take place before allowing a divorce. 

mediation
mediation

Are you starting to see the wisdom in what Jesus is asking us to do here. All of this work is intended to keep His sheep safe. Nothing is more important to Him than bringing back a lost sheep and He wants us to play our part in the process.

Are you starting also to notice that the "lost sheep" very well could be you? Remember, this whole thing starts with TWO people and a mediation never starts out assuming that one side only is in the wrong.

I hope that you have been learning a lot in our study of this wonderful counsel from Jesus; I know that I have been. Watch for the finishing of this passage study in Part 3, and thank you for reading!

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you so much for this amazing wisdom. Whole judicial systems have been built from this endless knowledge. I love knowing that You are my King and that I can come to You for help and understanding in confusing times. Thank You for what You accomplished on the cross. I want to be open to Your good counsel.

Please be with my friend, You know him well Lord. He is seeking Your guidance. Give me the wisdom to share with Him those things that You want him to know. Help Him to wait on You Lord. Help me to learn from this situation and to also grow. Lord, most of all I pray that You are glorified by whatever takes place. Be with his son. Protect him from the enemy. Protect my family and my children as well, dear Lord. Please be with the young girl and help her also to experience Your love.

Thank you for all that you provide. Help this blog to be a blessing to someone. I ask all of these things in Jesus name. Amen.