8 Role Models for Failure
by Pastor Cary Gordon
The church of Thyatira may have existed 2000 years ago, but the message they received, in response to the problem they neglected to address, is every bit as relevant to the modern church as wireless internet is to a coffee house. In His teaching found in Matthew 18, Jesus gives us a very simple and easy-to-follow three-leveled principle to be applied when a serious trespass has occurred between us and someone else. Level #1: Go to the brother who has sinned and confront him privately. If he repents, forgive him and go on. If he does not repent, we take it to the next level. Level #2: We take one or two more witnesses with us and confront the unrepentant brother a second time. If he repents, he is forgiven. If not, we take it to the last level. Level #3: Tell it to the church. If he repents, he is forgiven. If not, he is excommunicated from the church.
The church of Thyatira might have honored the first two of the three steps of forbearance taught by Jesus in Matthew 18, yet when it came time for the pastor of the church to confront Jezebel, the scripture says, “thou sufferest that woman Jezebel.” In other words, they left her alone without confrontation. This act was highly offensive to Jesus. Furthermore, we should notice that Jesus ceases to either forbear or forgive this evil woman! Why? Because after having “space to repent” she “repented not.” This is further proof that, as Christians, we are not to forbear endlessly, nor are we supposed to forgive everyone under all circumstances. Let’s continue reading.
Revelation 2:21-23 “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and SHE REPENTED NOT. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, EXCEPT THEY REPENT OF THEIR DEEDS. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the REINS and HEARTS: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”
A profound statement is delivered straight from the mouth of Lord Jesus Christ in the previous verse. He states that His execution of righteous judgment upon the non-repentant is done openly and publicly, in this case, so that “all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the REINS and HEARTS.” The word “searcheth” comes from the Greek word “eraunao,” which means to “investigate.” Where does Jesus investigate? He notes two places—the “reins” and “hearts.” The King James word “reins” is simply a synonym for the organ of the human body we call the kidneys. This is profound when we contrast the role of the human heart with the kidneys, observing their very different, yet complementary function within the body.
Jesus uses this analogy in harmony with our being called the “body of Christ” multiple times throughout the New Testament. What does the human heart do? The heart carries out a very positive action as it continually circulates life-giving blood throughout the entire body. What do the kidneys do? In contrast to the heart, the kidneys carry out a very negative action. They carefully inspect the blood circulated by the heart and discriminate between impurities, toxins, and harmful things, and those things that are deemed beneficial to bodily health. Upon discovering a harmful item in the blood, the kidneys isolate and reject it, sending it packing as human waste!
Jesus literally says here, “I WANT EVERY CHURCH TO REALIZE THAT I AM NOT JUST CONCERNED WITH HOW SWEETLY THEY LOVE ONE ANOTHER. I AM ALSO CONCERNED WITH HOW EFFECTIVELY THEY GUARD AGAINST CONTAMINATION!” It was with this truth in mind that Jesus said the following:
Matthew 10:34-38 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
Earlier in this chapter, I outlined the general rule of righteous judgment. If another Christian’s sin is severe enough that it suggests they have seared their conscience in a particular area and have become hardened towards the Spirit of God (unwilling and/or unable to hear the voice of their own human conscience), then God, in His unconditional love and mercy, has ordained for YOU to become His ambassador to them. In an attempt to bring them to repentance, no longer able to communicate with them through the voice of their own SPIRITUAL ears, God recognizes that they still have PHYSICAL ears capable of at least hearing YOUR VOICE.
So how do we tell the difference between sins that prove a hardened conscience and those that do not? I know there will be folks who, after seeing these truths of righteous judgment in the Bible, will nearly panic for fear of making a mistake. The good news is that, as always, the Bible tells us everything we need to know to do things right in the eyes of God. Jesus said, “My yoke [law] is easy and my burden [the expectation I have placed upon you to obey my law] is light [reasonable].” (See Matthew 11:30.) The law of love is not complicated. We are well able to do what God has asked of us.
There are seven categories of sin listed in the New Testament that help us to recognize those sins that must be confronted. They are listed below:
#1) A trespass. (Matthew 18:15-17)
A trespass is a destructive sin in the life of the one who has committed it, and it must be confronted. It is a sin which suggests that the person who did it has stopped listening to God’s voice in that particular area. Finis Dake, commenting on the original Greek word from whence we derive the word “trespass,” states, “Paraptoma [is] a falling aside when one should have stood upright; any deviation from the rule of duty or moral equity, as well as any flagrant offense.”4
#2) False doctrines contrary to the Bible.
Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
#3) Showing hatred for Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 16:22 “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”
The phrase “Anathema Maranatha” is translated into the English, “Cursed and Judged.” Obviously, such a person whom we are told to consider “cursed and judged” is not to receive either forbearance or forgiveness from any Christian. This is a person who reaches the point of being fairly called a spiritual “pig” or “dog,” whom Jesus commanded us to refrain from giving our pearls of truth. These types will likely never repent.
#4) Disorderly and disobedient conduct seen in the life of another believer.
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-16 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now the Lord of PEACE himself give you PEACE always by all means. The Lord be with you all.” (Notice how peace is connected to the act of righteous judgment.)
#5) Apostasy, or the abandoning of one’s own beliefs.
1 Timothy 1:19-20 “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (Also see 1 Timothy 4:1-8, 2 Timothy 3:5, 2 Timothy 4:1-4.)
Titus 3:10-11 “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”
1 Timothy 6:3-5 “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
#7) Sexual intercourse between unmarried persons and any other sin which brings damnation upon people. (This would include the seven deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19.)
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Bible reveals God’s eternal dealings with mankind. It is a historical record, among other things, of God’s longsuffering toward sinful, and at times incorrigible, men and women. It has an intrinsic value in that we can learn from its teachings, but equally we can learn from the stories of blunders and transgressions committed by the many personalities throughout the Old and New Testaments. In this regard, it is a tragic error for those who live under the jurisdiction of the New Testament to ignore the wisdom of the Old Testament altogether. The Apostle Paul regarded Old Testament law as the “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (See Galatians 3:24.) Later, Paul went as far as saying that without knowledge of the Old Testament laws, he would never have known how to define sin in his conscience. (See Romans 7:7.) You see, knowledge of Old Testament law exposes sin for the New Testament believer by educating an otherwise illegitimate conscience. Without the knowledge of sin, none of us could have ever truly repented before God and recognized our hopeless guilt and need for a Savior! Without the law, we would not have obtained the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:19 & 20 “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
The beauty of the Old Testament in particular is that while it contains the record of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by Father God, it also reveals the seemingly endless accounts of those whose lives were blessed through obedience or cursed through disobedience to them. The stories of these men and women were penned into permanent record for a reason.
1 Corinthians 10:1, 5-6, & 11 “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea…But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
We should learn from their stupid mistakes and be sharp enough to avoid falling prey to the very same tactics of temptation. As the wise King Solomon said, and it is certainly true when we speak of Satan’s methods of deception, that “there is nothing new under the sun.” It seems fitting, after viewing the seven categories of New Testament sins that require human judgment, to also consider eight personalities of the Bible from whom we can learn how NOT to think and behave. Have you ever thought or said any of the following? If so, you might need to repent.
1) “The Lord spoke to me, Pastor, and He told me what you are supposed to do.”—Jezebel (See Revelation 2:20 and 1 Kings 18:19.)
2) “We have decided to leave the church, because my wife isn’t happy here anymore. The Lord showed her that our season has come to an end in this church.”—Ahab (See 1 Kings 21:25.)
3) “Well, if I were the pastor, I would do things differently!”—Absalom (See 2 Samuel 15:3-6.)
4) “You are a good preacher, but I don’t agree with how you talk about money.”—Judas Iscariot (See John 12:5.)
5) “I’m not the only one who feels this way, Pastor! A lot of other people have come to me and complained that they are unhappy with this church. When this many people say the same thing, then there MUST be something to it, ya know!”—Korah (See Numbers 16:19, 32 & 26:9.)
6) “Pastor, we need to talk with you. We don’t agree with how you are handling this building program. You don’t have the qualifications for this type of undertaking, and we feel you haven’t given us enough input.”—Sanbalot, Geshem, and Tobiah (See Nehemiah 6:1&2.)
7) “Who do you think you are anyway? You aren’t the only one God speaks to around here!”—Aaron and Miriam (See Numbers 12:1-11.)
8) “Well, that is just YOUR interpretation! I see things differently!”—Serpent of Eden (See Genesis 3:1.)
It has been my experience that every modern church dons all eight of these kinds of people at some point in their growth towards corporate maturity. The key is for the sheep in the flock of God to recognize these age-old patterns that re-emerge over and over again in the minds of modern men. We must learn to discern between good and evil behavior in other people and deal with them accordingly.
The Command to Hate
The first chapter of Hebrews gives praise to the life of Jesus, because He, above His fellow men, loved righteousness as equally as He HATED iniquity.
Hebrews 1:9 “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Romans, the twelfth chapter, says that as true followers of Jesus, we too must HATE evil and cleave to that which is good.
Romans 12:9 “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”
What a fascinating command! God has commanded for you to hate! It could be argued that the command to hate may be the second most important command in the entire Bible, second only to the command to love; for it is as impossible to love good without hating evil as it is to think on right things without the willingness to reject the wrong. How does one properly hate? The answer to this odd question can only be found when we observe a principle true of all of God’s commands.
None of the commandments of God are “passive” in nature. What do I mean by this? In a nutshell, the Bible teaches us that love without expression is a lie, for “God so loved that He gave.” Additionally, we read that “faith without works is dead.” Moreover, one who claims to be filled with the Spirit must provide evidence of such a claim—the “evidence of speaking in tongues.” In other words, obedience to God’s commands requires active response.
Concerning faith, for example, James, the half-brother of Jesus, said that if a man claimed to have faith, then he should prove it by revealing good works. He went on to point out how many believers said they believed in Jesus, his brother, but his response to them went something like this, “What good is a passive belief? Satan and all the devils of hell ‘believe’ in Jesus and fear and tremble at the mention of His name!” Here is what I’m driving at: If faith without works is dead, then hate without works is also dead. We are to train ourselves in the arena of righteous judgment. We must learn to judge between right and wrong actions, just as much as we must learn to judge between right and wrong people. Electricians will tell you that it takes a negative and a positive to have power.
Spiritual Kidney Failure
If you were to ask me to diagnose what I believe to be one of the greatest failures of today’s modern church, I would have to say the church is suffering from spiritual kidney failure! A great depth of truth can be found in the following statement: While a man cannot live at all if his heart stops beating, he can sustain life for a short while with a good heart and failing kidneys. My point is this Satan deceived many in church history who thought that building a church through conceding to the desires of the people would bring them “success.” Those who refuse to embrace this mandate for righteous judgment in the local church might be able to build large works today by gaining the admiration of their communities, but they have little hope for a tomorrow. Without spiritual kidneys, when tomorrow comes, today shall prove to have been nothing more than incipient death for such groups.
This side-winding method of building churches, though it seems to be all the rage in our day, is nothing new. John Bunyan, the infamous Christian writer of seventeenth-century England, who wrote his immortal classic “Pilgrim’s Progress” during a loathsome 12-year incarceration for preaching the Word of God, communicated the dangers of building the church through concession with popular sentiments. His allegorical fiction revealed, in its own clever and imaginative way, the perils found in the welcoming arms of the “social gospel.”
“‘We are not looking for wares of any sort,’ injected Christian. ‘We seek to buy the truth.’ At this, the minister of the social gospel perked up his ears, and seeing potential for two more tithepayers, said piously, ‘Truth, do you say? Why, that’s what I sell in my church.’ ‘You do?’ asked Faithful, with some interest. ‘Why, of course. Without obligation and free.’ ‘And of what persuasion are they?’ inquired Christian. ‘Why, any you wish,’ he said proudly. ‘We have Romish truth, Protestant truth, Eastern truth…’ ‘What about Jesus?’ asked Faithful, a bit puzzled. ‘Oh, heh, heh. Jesus truth. But of course!’ said the minister, a bit chagrined. ‘How stupid of me to forget one of our greatest masters.’ ‘But wait!’ protested Christian. ‘There is only one truth. All others be thieves and robbers.’ ‘Well,’ huffed the minister of the church universal. ‘Did you hear, everybody? He just called the better part of our people thieves and robbers! … Bah! There are many roads that lead home. How did you come to be a judge over us?’ pontificated the minister.”5
Some in church history who brandished the slogan “Come As You Are” might have been more honest had they said, “Stay As You Are.” Since the teachings of righteous judgment, corporate peace, and church discipline required more spiritual fortitude than other doctrines, making the carnal uncomfortable, these hard sayings were usually the first principles of doctrine to be chucked out the “user-friendly” window by pastors.
Who can recall the name of their fellowships today?
John Bunyan’s work for Christ lives on in what became the second-most printed book in all of world history, runner-up only to the Bible itself; yet his religious captors remain practically nameless. What appeared, in Mr. Bunyan’s day, to be a large, thriving fellowship of the religious perished with each dying member; for they were never able, as he was, to pass on a spiritual legacy to last forever. What is built in the flesh dies in the flesh, but what is built in the Spirit shall stand eternally. Poignantly, the last sermon John Bunyan preached, only two days prior to his death, was given August 19, 1688.6 It was a sermon contrasting the stark difference between those who are born of the flesh and those who are born of the spirit. His text verse?
John 1:13 (NLT) “They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.”
History has proven that churches which place emphasis on relationship with Christ, at the expense of Christ’s truth, will be able to manufacture large followings, but few disciples. Transversely, those who place emphasis on truth, at the expense of relationship, will produce more “Pharisees” than they do followers. What did God want from history? The same thing He wants today—a church that expresses truth and relationship in the symbiotic balance of Jesus’ teachings; a church that understands that true love embraces and forgives, but it also forbears and rejects; a church that comprehends the justice side of true love.
The objective of God is not for us to slowly perish from the earth through self-poisoning, but that we live to pass the baton to the next generation. Churches which do not grasp the message of corporate peace will not last beyond the generation of their founding—but those who have healthy hearts and kidneys shall endure and bring forth posterity capable of carrying the torch of the gospel to their children’s children’s children…even to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am but a small man, yet I am proof of this; for I, like my fathers before me, am a preacher of the gospel of peace. I am determined to ensure that for as many centuries that may pass, after I am dead and buried, there will always be a Gordon running around telling someone about Jesus Christ!
1. Finis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Study Notes Notes and Charts, Dake Bible Sales, Lawrenceville, Georgia, 1961.
2. Adam Clarke, Database, iExalt, Inc., Austin, Texas, 2000.
4. Finis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Study Notes, Notes and Charts, Dake Bible Sales, Lawrenceville, Georgia, 1961.
5. Jim Pappas Jr., Pilgrim’s Progress, New Amplified Version, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, 1999, p. 190.
6. Mark H. Tuttle, Christian History, Volume 5, No. 3, 1986 Christian History Institute, Worcester, Pennsylvania, p. 36.