I have been looking at what God’s word says about repentance and a process of being restored after church discipline. The last week has been pretty pivotal in my processing of things and working through the issues of what happened at my last church. My heart is deeply broken over my sin, and even more overthe lack of truth and understanding I have walked in for years. My leaders were correct to address that in my life, I just wish I had been able to hear what they were saying before it reached this point, but I was too hard-hearted and stiff-necked to recognize my own rebellion and arrogance.
After someone has been removed from a church they basically have four options: 1) walk away from God 2) deny the discipline and seek out others who will accept them despite the sin 3) walk outside the church (could be with non-believers or others who are walking outside the church) 4) repent of the their sin and seek restoration to the body of Christ.
I have been working toward option four. It is my heart and desire to see my sin, repent of it, unlearn all the wrong teachings/beliefs I have lived with, learn God’s truth, and eventually be restored to the family of God. A couple days ago I felt that I had reached a point in my repentance where I was ready to contact the church elders and ask for the next steps along the discipline process. I know that repentance needs to be more than just a statement I make or a one time decision. I am ready to walk that process. I have realized that I can not turn to family, friends, institutions, etc. from my past and expect to be different because they are as disillusioned as I am. I need to turn to those who see and think differently if I am to change. I am ready to pay the cost no matter what it is to move in repentance and seek restoration. Hard days lie ahead but I know with all I am that this is the right decision and in that I find peace and hope.
Now, some will say that the church I have been attending is abusive and wrong. Although their confrontation of me and quick decision to place me under discipline can be viewed as unloving and ungracious, it is actually very loving to address my sin and to push me toward repentance. The process is not fun, but I have seen more fruit coming from this in the last week than I have seen in my life over the past ten or fifteen years. I deeply desire to change, and I believe that these leaders may be able to assist me in doing that. So, I sent them a letter that included this plea.
“As I understand the process and purpose of church discipline the removal of a person from the church is to discipline them, remove them from community, and push them to repentance so they will return to God. It also is to protect the church, Christ’s bride, from impurity and unholy behavior and beliefs. I believe in those purposes and want to be teachable and submissive to you as my leaders and to God. To take this discipline lightly, to not address the issues you have spoken into my life, or to turn to another church in order to avoid the discipline would be unhealthy, unholy, and sinful. It also could cause disunity in the church, and could hurt your name and the reputation of both ______ and ______. As such I believe I am still under your authority and am accountable to you until I am restored to the body of Christ by you with approval that I have repented and turned from my sin (If I am wrong in this please instruct and guide me to correct understanding). At this time I do not believe I am free to associate with Christians or attend another church however I have no desire to be a part of the world and walk away from Christ so I am living isolated from human interaction. I do have very limited Godly counsel and direction in my life that I am pursuing for the purpose of repentance and reconciliation. I am coming to you with a heart that is trying to daily walk in repentance and to learn to live entirely differently than I have in the past. I am asking for your discipline, leadership, authority, and guidance in my life. Would you please give me counsel and direction regarding the sin you see in my life and my unfaithful ways? Would you advise and lead me to a correct understanding of the gospel and truth, a heart that is submitted both to God and his people, and to a life that is turned to God’s lordship and transformation? Would you please show me a path to restoration, restitution, and reconciliation so that I can one day be restored to the body of Christ and will again be able to associate with others and pour out my heart and life for God? I understand this will be a process that involves submission, hard work, and disciplinary action and that change will need to be exhibited and observed over time. I am not looking for a quick fix or an easy way out of this process.”
Repentance is a very hard journey. I have been incredibly humbled and broken this week, but I know it will lead to the best possible future and to restoration with God and his people. If you are being advised to not repent of your sin and to just run away from discipline think about this quote.
“In the same way it (the false prophet’s teaching) does not emphasize repentance in any real sense. It has a very wide gate leading to salvation and a very broad way leading to heaven. you need not feel much of your own sinfulness; you need not be aware of the blackness of your own heart. You just decide for Christ and rush in with the crowd and your name is put down and is one of the large number of decisions reported by the press. Repentance means that you realize that you are a guilty vile sinner in the presence of God; that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, that you are hell-bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you; that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world whatever the cost, the world in its mind and outlook as well as its practice, and you deny yourself, and take up the cross and go after Christ. Your nearest and dearest and the whole world may call you a fool, or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference. That is repentance. The false prophet does not put it like that. He heals ‘the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, simply saying that it is all right and that you have but to come to Christ, ‘follow Christ,’ or ‘become a Christian’.” (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), Vol 2, pp. 221, 224-225, 248-249)
(See https://restoringtheheart.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/church-discipline-is-restoration-possible/ for information about the evidence of repentance or what repentance looks like.)