The Ever-Present Tension

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Pastor Mark Mikels – October 4, 2009
“THE EVER-PRESENT TENSION ”
(1 Corinthians 5:1-8; 2 Corinthians 2:1-11)

Intro … In preparation for communion this morning, I would draw your attention to what I’ve labeled Today’s Key Focus …

Today’s Key Focus …
The TENSION that exists between being
GRACIOUS and RIGHTEOUS.

This is a tension that is experienced wherever Christians live in fellowship with one another (could be in a family/could be in the church body/could be within any friendship setting).

It’s a tension that is felt whenever sin invades that fellowship. It’s the very tension that caused our Three-Personed God to set in motion the plan that would put Jesus Christ on the Cross.

It’s the tension that exists between being gracious and righteous.

These words have been stuck in my heart and mind for the past several weeks now … They first entered my mind as “partner terms” as we Overseers were closing a meeting with prayer – a meeting that had been spent discussing a matter that had cropped up right within our fellowship – a matter that we knew required some “official” church response.

And that night as I prayed that the Lord would guide us, I asked the Lord to help us to be both Gracious and Righteous. When I uttered the word “gracious” I had not yet thought of the word “righteous”. It just flowed out as the closing thought of that prayer and those two words have been linked within me ever since.

Time for some definition … What do these two words mean and why do I say there is such tension between them and what difference does it make anyway?

For purposes of sensing the tension let’s reverse the order … Here’s a couple of definitions from the Mikels’ dictionary of practical theology.

Two Key Definitions …

RIGHTEOUS – motivated to uphold God’s STANDARDS and
to hold people (especially God’s People) ACCOUNTABLE.

GRACIOUS – motivated to grant FORGIVENESS and to enable HEALING.

It doesn’t take much pondering to see the tension between these two, does it?

The righteous perspective says “God’s standards are inviolate; we cannot overlook them or just casually deal with those who break them.” The righteous perspective hears the voice of the Lord clearly saying “Be Holy for I am Holy” – and “Touch not the unclean thing”.

Now, pushed to an unbiblical extreme, the righteous perspective can become harsh and lacking in compassion. There are people and families and churches as well as Christian organizations of many kinds that over the years have exhibited this extreme righteous perspective.

On the other hand, the gracious perspective says “Which of us has not fallen into sin; let’s lift the fallen one up lest the fall become permanent.” Those taking the gracious perspective primarily hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Forgive one another as I have forgiven you.”

In its extreme unbiblical form, the gracious perspective can become sinfully tolerant and actually lead toward continued sin. There are also of course people and families and churches as well as Christian organizations of many kinds that over the years have exhibited this extreme perspective.

It can certainly generate incredible tension as we seek to maintain both “Righteous” and “Gracious” perspectives simultaneously and yet that’s what
God would call us to do.
In the actual sequence of things … when sin enters into the fellowship, the first perspective that must be expressed is the righteous perspective – the sin must be recognized and dealt with; God’s standard must be declared and upheld.

However, the Lord would have us give full expression to the gracious perspective as soon as possible. The tension comes as we seek to decide when it is time to transition from the one to the other – or more correctly when the time has come to give full expression to the grace that forgives and heals.

There’s a lot riding on that decision for Today’s Key Reality clearly points out that …

Today’s Key Reality …

Prematurely granted GRACE does damage to the STANDARD;
Tardily granted GRACE does damage to the PERSON.

Fortunately the Lord preserved for our learning a perfect example, an illustration if you will, in the Scripture …

Today’s Scriptural Illustration …
“The CHURCH at CORINTH”
(1 Cor. 5:1-6; 2 Cor. 2:1-11)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
(This was prematurely granted grace – it was doing damage to the Standard.)

Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? (1 Cor. 5:1-6)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent–not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (This is Paul warning against tardily granted grace – it could do much damage to the person.)

I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him.

In this little glimpse into life in the Church at Corinth, we see Paul first urging the believers in Corinth to adopt the righteous perspective and “Recognize and Deal with the Sin that had invaded their fellowship and to hold the sinner accountable”.

Then in the second letter we see Paul urging them to now adopt the “gracious perspective” and “grant forgiveness and re-affirm their love”.

These are the “rubber meeting the road” kind of situations that parents and church leaders and even friends face all the time – We want to uphold God’s righteous standards and yet we want to comfort and re-establish those who have fallen into some sort of sin – to say such situations create tension is to
put it mildly.

Leads to today’s key question …

Today’s Key Question …
What determines proper TIMING?

Answer: The PRESENCE of CONFESSION and REPENTANCE.
(1 John 1:9)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And that Scripture leads us to our Final Thot which actually is the central thot of this meditation … the thot that determines our behavior as a body whenever sin enters the fellowship …

Final Thot …
Confession and Repentance RELEASE Grace –
REBELLION keeps Grace under LOCK and KEY!