Sin and the Local Church, part 1

I want us to talk about what we should do if someone in the church sins and maybe even sins, against us.

Because unfortunately, that’s going to be a reality.

You are going to sin.

I am going to sin.

We are going to sin .


We are going to sin against each other.


That’s not the only reality of course.

Fortunately, the church is more than just us sinning against each other.

The church is something good and over the past few weeks we have been talking about how good. We are actually in the middle of a series of posts on the local church. And I hope, you are seeing just how good God intended this to be, because I think we can take God’s grace for granted. So easily. Where don’t appreciate how good the local church is supposed to be.

It is not just another place you go to be entertained.

I mean.

You can go to a movie theater for that.

And it’s not just a place to go to get more information.

We are supposed to be a family.

If you are a Christian, the local church is one of the ways God’s been so kind to you.

He didn’t leave you on your own.

“You are forgiven. Hope you make it.”


He joined you together with these other Christians, and He designed and created really, this thing called the church, for you to live out your Christian life, with these people as family.


I don’t want us to ever get over how much good God’s done for us.

In Jesus.

Because, every which way we look He’s been good.

He’s forgiven us. He’s empowered us. He’s instructed us. And He’s given us the church.

And yet with all the good God’s done for us, one thing He hasn’t done for us, as of yet, and we need to be honest, we need to be straight, He’s going to do it, so, it’s coming, but one thing He hasn’t done, as of yet, is make us perfect.

In practice.

We are perfect in God’s sight.

God sees us as if we lived Jesus’ life.

And He’s given us the Holy Spirit so we can overcome sin, there’s hope for us, but,still, the reality is, in practice, while all that’s true, we still, sin.

A lot.

I mean.

Who hasn’t sinned this week?

We’ve all sinned.

And if you are thinking, I haven’t sinned, you can stop thinking that, because you are sinning right now.

You are proud.

So proud.

That you don’t even see your sin.

We are sinners.


We sin against God.


We sin against each other.

And of course, that fact, creates some problems for us.

I mean.

What we do with that?

As believers?

As a local church?

Now, I guess, in the world, obviously, that doesn’t seem like much of a problem.


You sinned.

What is the big deal?

But is a big deal for us as Christians. Our eyes have been opened. And here, actually in Matthew 18, we are going to be looking at verses 15-20, primarily, where you can see maybe in bold print, “if your brother sins against you,” this is how to deal with sin in the church, but all the way leading up to these verses, that we are going to be looking at, Jesus is having to make it clear to his disciples, why it is so important they deal with sin.

Matthew 18.

Is a sermon.

Of Jesus’.

It’s not a series of random statements.

It’s a sermon, which means, while, we are going to be looking at one part of the sermon in verses 15-20, the whole thing fits together. And really, in this sermon, Jesus is mostly talking, about our life together in the church, this a sermon on the church, on our responsibilities to one another, and he begins, you can see, by basically talking about what it means to be a Christian, in the first place.

Verse 1.

Some of the men who had been following him were wondering, how to be great in the kingdom.

Or, more specifically, how they could be the greatest.

Which is something they were kind of always obsessing about, actually, who was the greatest, and that’s the way that honestly, it is in most non-Christian communities, it’s a competition to get the top, but Jesus’ response, is once again, to show how the gospel’s perspective on life is pretty much the exact opposite.

Than the world’s.

Verse 4.

Chapter 18.

He takes a child and says,

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Which means, that, being great in God’s eyes begins with recognizing you are not great, that’s a requirement, for Jesus, you can only be important in God’s service when you recognize you are not important, and that makes sense, because that’s actually how you became a Christian, in the first place, to become a Christian, you have to recognize your own need, your own sin, your own inability to save yourself.

You have to humble yourself to be a Christian.

And that obviously is a completely different way of thinking than the world and that way of thinking has implications for the way live our live together now, as a church.

If we are always having to compete with one another to be the greatest, that’s going to effect the way we relate to one another and humbling yourself like a child, that, is going to have an impact as well.

Which Jesus starts working out.

In verse 5 and following.

He says.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”


One such child refers to someone who has humbled himself.

In other words, another believer.

The point being, our relationship with other believers reflects our relationship with Jesus.

That’s what he wants us to understand about the church.

Which is huge.



While that is sort of the positive side, it also has other ramifications as well and Jesus goes on and this is the part I really wanted you to see.

Verse 6.

It also means.

“…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

 Which is a pretty shocking thing for Jesus to say.


We need to think about it.

Because, you know, when would it ever, ever be better to be drowned?

I mean, can you imagine coming to the place, where you say, you know what, I would rather, I would prefer having someone take a great millstone, and that’s just a super large stone they used to grind grain, and have them, put it around my neck, where I couldn’t get it off, and then throw me into the deepest part of the ocean?

That’s not usually a better choice.

That’s usually the worst choice.

You could ever dream up.

And yet, Jesus is saying, here, that it is better to have that happen, than to cause another believer to sin, which obviously, makes sin pretty serious.It would be better for us to die a horrible death, than to be in a local church, and do something that either directly or indirectly, makes it more tempting for another person who is a Christian to disobey God.

We take sin seriously as a local church.

It’s a big deal.

Jesus is saying.

You can even hear his’ own grief over sin in verse 7.


Which is a statement expressing condemnation.


“Woe to the world for temptations to sin.”

It is like Jesus is looking around and he’s just so sad there are so many temptations to sin all around us. And that’s a reason for the world to be condemned.

It’s a bad place out there.

But, you know, what’s even more heartbreaking, is that while, you kind of expect that from unbelievers in the world. It sometimes happens in the church, as well. Even people who say they are believers sometimes don’t take sin very seriously, which makes Jesus grieve.

That’s why he says,

“Woe to the one by whom temptation comes.”

In other words, this is, something that is, a really big deal.


And we need to say that, loud, and over and over, to ourselves, because it is just easy for us to get used to sin in this world.

Unfortunately, it’s all around us. But the thing is, Jesus doesn’t want us to get used to it.


We are going to sin.

In this church.

And that would be totally the wrong way for us to deal with sin in the local church.

To act like.

It doesn’t matter.

It matters.

In fact, it matters so much if we cause another believer to sin, there’s a sense in which we would be better off dead.

That’s what Jesus is saying.

And in case that doesn’t get the point across vividly enough, He uses another illustration in the next verse of how much of a problem sin is to us, as a church, and this time, he’s a little more personal.

Verse 8.

“And if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.


Not literally.

Of course.

Because unfortunately that wouldn’t help much.

After all, according to Jesus, in other places, sin comes not from our hands or our feet, but from our heart, so this is supposed to be an illustration.

Because, obviously.

If you had to cut off your hand.

That would be terrible.

It’s kind of hard to think of something worse you can do to yourself, unless it’s cutting off your foot or tearing out your eye, and yet, we should hate our own sin so much as believers that we would prefer chopping off our hand or our foot, or even tearing out our eye and throwing it away, than compromising with sin.

That’s our normal stance towards sin.

As a local church.

There’s really no group in the world who should hate sin more than us.

The reason being, of course, we know there is a place called hell.

Verse 8 again.

 “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”

And verse 9 as well.

“It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Which, is why, we, as believers, as a church, we don’t, really, have the option of being casual about sin.

We’ve seen too much. We know too much.

If someone’s never seen, I don’t know, the damage witchcraft can do, you can understand why they don’t take witchcraft seriously, you are like, ahh, they have never seen it, but I have, and so I do. And as believers, with sin, in a similar way, we can understand why maybe unbelievers don’t take sin as seriously, as we do, why they can just ignore it, but, we’ve seen too much, we know too much, we know there is a hell, and we know a little about what hell’s like, and so the one option, we don’t have when it comes to sin, in the church, is to just think it is no big deal.

It is a big deal.

It is.

Our own sin. And the sin of other believers.

We need to deal with it.

And I guess I want you to know that. This is part of why we have membership in local churches, why it involves a process. Because, when you become a member of a local church, the church is recognizing that you are a Christian, and, as a Christian, that you don’t just want to be content with sin.

You are not saying you are perfect.

Of course.

But you are saying, I hate sin. I don’t want it in my life and I don’t want in the church.

And so, you are here to help us deal with our sin and we are here to help you deal with yours.

That’s part of the purpose of membership in a local church.

But again, the question, we are asking, is how? Because this, is where, I think, we really have got to keep reading.

In Matthew 18.

Because Jesus adds a bit of nuance, if we’re looking at this sermon, he’s preaching.

Because, yes, God hates sin. I mean, there is, hell. And, yet, if we are just looking at the first few verses here, and we kind of just stop.

When someone sins, we might just go on the attack, because, after all, we think, God hates that!

And so.

We just go after them.

And we get so hard, as well, and we aren’t gentle.


You sinned.

You are such a loser.

And Jesus is like, if we look at verse 10, as he continues on in this sermon.


You actually can’t go that direction either.

You can’t avoid dealing with sin. But you can’t just go around attacking other believers either, when they sin.

That would be the wrong way to respond.

As well.

Verse 10.

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.”



He’s talking about other believers. Not literal babies, there. Little ones Jesus’ way of describing real Christians. People who have humbled themselves like a child.

Be careful.

That’s what ‘see that’ means.

Be careful.

See that, you do not despise other Christians. Because it’s not just that God hates sin. He does. But it’s not just that.  It’s also that God loves believers.

Which makes our situation as a church, a little more complicated, when someone sins. Because, as we look at hell, we know, we have to take sin super seriously. But, we also look at heaven and what it says about God’s attitude towards other Christians.

Matthew 18.

Verse 10.


 This is a reason you can’t despise other believers and just write them off or attack them.

 “I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Which means, basically, that God cares about Christians so much He actually has commissioned angels to help take care of them.

That’s what this is talking about.

We don’t need to make it too complicated.

If someone is a Christian, we can’t just tear them apart when they sin, because if they are Christians, they have a special place in God’s heart, such a special place, that there are actually these glorious beings who exist in the very presence of God, whose whole job is serve Him, by serving them.

Which, I am saying, tells you how important Christians, are to God.


“What do you think?”

 Jesus says.

Verse 12.

This has implications.

If that’s true.

In other words.

“What do you think God’s attitude is then when one of these believers is starting to drift into sin?”

Looking at hell.

Of course.

We might just think angry.

But there’s not just hell.

There’s also heaven.

And when we look there, it’s obvious that He’s not just mad at them. He actually loves them.

He wants them back. He doesn’t want them to be stuck in sin and destroyed by it.

And so, Jesus gives an illustration to help us appreciate God’s perspective.

Verse 12.

Second half.

If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, that he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”

 And then he applies this to God.

This is the attitude of God, our Father.

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

And this is supposed to set the agenda for the church.

In terms of how we deal with sin.

We can’t just ignore it.

Because God hates it.

When members of this church, people who have made a commitment to this church and are recognized as members, mess up, in a big way, they get stuck in a pattern of sin, it’s going tempting for some of us to want to avoid doing anything about it.

Besides maybe gossip.

That’s maybe how our cultures taught us to deal with sin.

Pretend like it didn’t happen, when you are with the person and then talk terribly about them behind their back.


That’s really tempting for us because we don’t like conflict.

It’s awkward.

And we’ve got all kinds of excuses.

We’ll give.

I’m the younger brother.

They’ll be so mad.

It’s not my responsibility.

They are the ones who sinned.

And yet, Jesus is showing us here, that’s not an option, for us as a church, given the reality of hell, sin is just too serious to avoid talking about it. If we really believe we’d better off dead than tempting someone to sin, and that it’d be better to cut off our hand and cut off our foot and tear out your eye than sin. We can’t just be like, oh well, they are sinning.It’s stinks to be them and avoid talking to them about it.

And yet, at the same time, we can’t go the other extreme either, which is sometimes tempting as well. And that’s getting all hot and bothered, and hating and going on the attack.

You know, there are some people who don’t avoid others when they sin.

The opposite.

They are more than happy to attack them instead, and they are in there right away, yelling at them, and pointing the finger at them. and exposing them and really despising them. We don’t want to have anything to do with you.You sinned.

And Jesus shows, that’s not an option either, in the local church.

When we look at what God’s like.

He doesn’t want them to perish.

Which means, I am saying, if avoiding and attacking aren’t options for us and usually those are the ways we are trained to deal with sin, growing up.


 Or attack.

 But if those aren’t options.

 As a local church, we have to think about what we do, instead.

 What do we do if someone is part of this church sins?

 And Jesus is very clear iMatthew 18:15-20. He lays down a process. A four-step process for us to follow.

Which we’ll look at in our next post.

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