By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.
“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (NASB)
The Williams translation gives this verse as:
“Brothers, if anybody is caught in the very act of doing wrong, you who are spiritual, in the spirit of gentleness, must set him right; each of you continuing to think of yourself, for you may be tempted too.”
While I was pastor in California, a friend of mine, a man in a nearby church sinned against God, his church, and his family. Being a prominent member of one of the leading churches in our area, I just knew some of our pastors and churches would seek to help restore him to the faith. But, they didn’t. However, the Rotarians and the Masons appointed committees to talk with him and his wife … and they helped restore him to his wife and family.
He said, “The darkest hour in my life came from my church.” The deacons of his church met secretly behind closed doors and voted to kick him out of the church. They made no visits, no calls or ever tried to contact him for prayer to help restore him to fellowship with God and his church family. This is a tragedy! It is a “black spot” on the cause of Christ Jesus and His kingdom’s work!
In 1955, while attending Ranger Junior College in West Texas, our Baptist church had a revival. A young man, who had just been saved a few years, came to town. A former drug addict and police figure, he was loud, bold and brash. He walked allover the platform and up and down the isles with a black bible in his hand. He preached like a machine gun. Before I could digest a sentence, he was speaking the next one. The Holy Spirit fell upon our church, and that little town. Several hundreds came each night. And God added hundreds to the church, such as should be saved. My life was changed! It was there I knew that God was calling me into the ministry.
That man was Freddie Gage, one of my mentors and “fathers” in the ministry. Freddie has led more revivals and crusades and spoken to more people than anyone else in the Southern Baptist Convention, other than Dr. Billy Graham. He is the founder of “wounded heroes,” a restoration program for hurting Christians (ministers, missionaries & members), who have fallen into sin.
Dr. Gage has been quoted as saying, “The Christian army is the only army that shoots and buries its wounded.” Then, “We leave them to bleed to death in the field.” Believe me, thousands have fallen into temptation, then have been shot in the back by the church crowd.
It seems that many of the so-called “spiritual” people think it is their duty to beat this fallen one over the head with a baseball bat. There is a danger of many who would just want to “hit” him or “shoot” him again, and not want to restore him. They would rather criticize and condemn him.
I would like to list four effectual ways of shooting a man when he is down …
I. We shoot them by just leaving them alone
Remember the Bible story of the wounded man who fell among thieves, who was robbed beaten, and left for dead? Both of the religious people, (the priest and the Levite), “passed by on the other side.” (Luke10:30-32). They just left him lying there … they just left him alone.
There are none so cruel, so merciless, so unbending, so unrelenting, and so damnable as the religious crowd, the “holier than thou’s” … that freeze you out by leaving you alone. I believe I prefer an enemy (that I don’t know), to a friend (that I thought I knew).
This seems to be the spirit of the age. Unfortunately, many in the church have this selfish, pharisaical, judgmental attitude. They make those caustic statements like: “Well, they made their bed, let them lie on it,” or “They knew what they were doing, and should have known better,” or “I’m not responsible for them,” or “They couldn’t cut the mustard,” or etc., etc.
This also happens in our churches. It’s hard enough to get people saved, baptized and into the church. But, they seem to be coming in the front door and going out the back door as fast as we get them. They come in excited. We shake their hands and welcome them, sit them down and forget them. We take the new Christians, “dip ‘em and drop ‘em”. They are not discipled and loved. They are just left to fend for themselves. So, un-cared for and un-loved, they leave. You can’t hatch chickens in a refrigerator … you must have an incubator. When new ones come in, we must be in the business of “bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) Why? Because we are family to these new children.
I know one gifted minister in Texas who got financially over-extended. He was slowly paying off his debts, when an old judgmental deacon found out about his plight. He called a deacons meeting and they “called him on the carpet.” He was forced to resign in disgrace. They then, found out that they owed him some back pay, but didn’t want to pay him after he resigned. I tremble for those men and that church on judgment day.
This verse (Galatians 6:1) mentions, “If a man be overtaken in a fault…” this word ‘fault’ comes from a Greek word which means “a falling aside or a mishap.” Literally, it means “to stumble.” Now Christian, what do we do with a person who stumbles?
Although some may deny it … everyone has faults! A man leading a seminar asked the audience, “Is there anyone here who does not have a fault?” He asked it several times. Then, a “Mr. Wilbur Milquetoast” type raised his hand. “Are you one who has no faults,” the speaker asked. “No,” the man responded. “Then do you know someone who has no faults?” “Well,” he said, “I’ve heard of him.” The speaker said, “Who is he?” The little fellow said, “He’s my wife’s first husband.”
Burdens are common to the human family. We all have burdens and faults. We come into this world with a cry, and we need comfort and help. From the very beginning and all through life we need comfort because of the fact that we have been born into this world of woe. What stumbling church members don’t need is to be left alone.
When someone is down, we just can’t leave them alone. It does little good to preach “God is love” and “we should love one another,” if we hold individuals at arms length, for fear of contamination, those who have been overtaken in a fall or fault. What hypocrisy!
II. We shoot them with our criticism
The “law of revenge” has always failed. My mother taught me never to say anything about someone, and you’ll never have to defend yourself. But our day is a day of dismembering, dissecting, defamation, censure, crimination, and castigation.
The apostle James said, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by Hell … it (the tongue) is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:6,8b)
It may seem manly to strike out at someone who has failed or fallen, but, it is divine to forgive! Remember when Saul died, and the false friends of David came and said, “Saul is dead, here’s your chance to strike back. He embarrassed you and humiliated you. It’s time to get even.” The great heart of David replied, “Is there anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” Wow! (2 Samuel 9:1, 3) what a magnanimous heart of love and forgiveness.
Alexander The Great stood before an artist who was painting his portrait. The artist painted him with his hand covering a great scar on his face, as if in a salute. Oh, dear friends, can’t we with the hand of love, throw a veil of forgetfulness over the faults and scars of our fellow brothers and sisters, and pray for them?
There are too many still in our churches who want to call “fire down from heaven” to consume those who do not live up to their standards or who do not believe like they believe.
In Dr. Luke’s account of the Prodigal Son, we notice when the fallen, repentant son came back home, the elder brother “was angry and would not go in.” (Luke 15:28). He got mad at his forgiving father. Notice verse 29: “I … me … I” so self-righteous! “I have served you.” “I never transgressed against you.” “You never gave me …” “That I could make merry …” what reverse psychology this is. I’m so good and this sorry “Son of yours….” (v. 29). What criticism!
During the invitation, at the close of the service, one lady came forward, weeping aloud. She told her pastor that she had been gossiping about other church members. She told him, “I just want to lay my tongue on the altar.” He told her, “I’m sorry lady, but our altar is only seventeen feet long.” You may smile at that … but, in reality, it is so sad!
Jesus was criticized. He was called a winebibber and glutton, because he hung around with the wrong people … the sinners. He was called a Samaritan, which was an insult in the Jewish culture. Jesus, the son of God, the one “Come down from God out of Heaven,” was not religious enough for the religious crowd. These criticizing, religious Pharisees had a standard that even Jesus didn’t meet.
Harry Truman was one of our most criticized presidents, once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And, “If your head is made of butter, don’t stand to close to the fire.” He was criticized!
Every great endeavor has its critics. Remember Robert Fulton. He invented the steamboat. Great crowds of skeptics lined the bank yelling, “It will never start! It will never start!” It did, and made its way down the river. Then the skeptics started yelling, “It will never stop. It will never stop.”
Christian: we can speak out and criticize all we want, but the person we are talking about has still fallen, and needs help. The Greek word, “restore” in this verse is a verb which literally means “to set a broken bone.” If a friend you’re with falls down and breaks his arm or leg, are you going to walk off and leave him in pain? God says, “You who are spiritual set the broken bone.” God didn’t ask you if you wanted to, he said, “Do it!” It might inconvenience you, but if you are spiritual, you will help that one who is fallen. You will not be his critic!
Remember: a critic a day, may mean you are on the right way!
III. We shoot them by lying about them
Did you know that criticism usually ends in lies! There are a thousand ways to lie without ever moving your lips. Some men’s entire life may be a lie. We are living in an age of prolific liars.
Look at the signs in our cities. “Going out of business.” Lie! They have had that same sign for the past seven years. “Selling below cost.” Yeah, right! “Must vacate building.” Lie! Same sign for the past four years. We are living in an age of prolific liars.
Too many of our brothers who have been “overtaken in a fault” have become the subject of “embellished truths” or “lies.” After sharing a word of my disgust at the way the discussion was going, I had to leave a meeting of ministers who had met for the exact purpose of helping another fallen minister. What a travesty of so-called loving, caring, brotherhood! We had gone from prayer, to quiet discussion, to critical analysis, to castigation.
My own brother went through a divorce when he was a high school football coach in Texas. He was well liked and respected by all the community. After his divorce, many in the business world and in the school stood beside him during his time of struggle and embarrassment. Only the church shut him out and gave him a cold shoulder. The pastor never came to talk and pray with him … they just left him alone and began to criticize him. Through some leaders in the church, his indiscretions were “embellished” and turned into reputation destroying lies. How low some church people sink.
It’s a fact of life that the leader of the pack, often gets shot in the back! Critics and liars are everywhere … even in the church. Someone has said that, “Any fool can criticize, lie, condemn and complain, and most fools do!”
A pastor friend of mine once said to me, “Glen, if I ever fall into sin, I pray that I don’t fall into the hands of these critical judges in this church. I’d rather fall into the hands of bar-keepers, streetwalkers, and dope peddlers than the rulers of this church, with their long, wagging, gossiping tongues, cutting me to shreds.” This is the attitude of the legalists who run many churches! What an indictment on church leadership!
IV. We shoot them by slandering them
Remember the prodigal son and the elder brother? When the prodigal came home, the elder brother tried to stain his brother further by telling his dad, “Your son, who has spent your substance with harlots (prostitutes).” (Luke 15:30) how did he know that? He wasn’t there with the prodigal. There were no telephones, newspapers, computers and e-mails. He just had to slander his brother. He thought he had the “inside-dope.” There are just too many in the church that are guilty of whispering and idle talk.
We have no right to gossip or listen to it! The most “yellow coward” of all is the person who comes and says, “Someone told me…” or “I heard that…” or “I think you should know …” even though the information may or may not be true, it is no more than damnable, hypocritical gossip.
Someone told Freddie Gage, “The church is full of hypocrites.” He replied, “Well, so is hell.” The choice is yours!
I would rather be a non-entity, than a chattering, jabbering, iconoclastic, caustic, loquacious blatherskite whose foul verbosity would blacken the reputation of someone else. All the saloons, brothels, and gambling halls have not hurt the church half as much as gossiping tongues of so-called “spiritual people” who are in the church.
Twice, in one church, I had to interrupt a women’s missionary meeting, because someone was “catching it” from those present.
Prayer and passion for the mission field turned in to pompous, pretentious, exaggerated castigation of another lady in the church. So sad!
Evangelist Sam Jones once said, “That there were women with tongues so long they could sit in the front room and lick the skillet in the kitchen.”
And ladies, this is not an attack on you. Unfortunately, I have had to stand before a judgmental, hypocritical, caustic, lying, vicious, “Gestapo-type” group of men, as they wanted answers about my life and agenda. This church, for several years was one of the fastest growing churches in Texas. We had hundreds saved and baptized, and many more joined from other places when they moved to our community. It was an exciting, live-wire church. When this church became a passionate, soul-minded, soul-winning, caring church … these old timers in the church lost control, and they wanted me out of there. I stayed two more years with many more coming to the lord, but it was never the same.
Remember: in Jesus day, there were none so dangerous as the faithful, very religious, law-keeping Pharisees. And, believe me, they are still alive and well in our Baptist churches today. A spirit of self-righteousness always renders one incapable of helping or restoring another person.
Dr. Billy Graham has been credited with the often-repeated claim that he believed that 50 percent of our church members are not even redeemed. After my almost 50 years in the ministry, I believe he may have understated the problem … especially with older churches. Some have been claiming salvation so long, that they can’t even give a statement of personal testimony of when they received it.
Dr Gage has said, “It has been a sad experience to see the lack of loyalty toward one another. Surprisingly, I have witnessed more loyalty at a nearby bar than among many people in some of our congregations. There are some who are more loyal to a church building than they are to Jesus. Many Christians are shot by friendly fire – – I was.”
The bible says, “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) loyalty is what you do, not what you say!” (Matthew 26:33-35; 69-75)
Scripture teaches us the only reason that excuses Christians to separate loyalty from someone is when they become a heretic.
The apostle Paul said in this verse, “You who are spiritual, restore.” How are we to restore a person who has fallen … and is broken? Paul says, “In the spirit of meekness.”
A “spiritual” person possesses the fruit of the spirit in his life.
The “fruit of the spirit” is listed in the verses just above this one. In chapter 5, verses 22 and 23 say, “… the fruit of the spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), self-control. Against such there is no law.”
A spirit-led believer, (someone who is “spiritual”), feels genuine sorrow for one who has fallen into sin. And, it really makes no difference what sin it was, or who’s fault it was. He does everything possible to help rescue and restore that person from sins grasp.
A “spirit-led” Christian is not interested in retribution, but in the restoration of the sinning brother in Christ. Spiritual freedom demands our obedience to an even greater law – The Law of Christ. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)
I grew up singing the songs of Fannie Crosby. They always had such a biblical message. Although we think of lost sinners when we sing this, it is also for the fallen Christian, and the spiritual restoring brother.
“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o’re the erring one; lift up the fallen.
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save…”
“Down in the human heart crushed by the tempter,
feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
cords that are broken will vibrate once more.”
Responding in love is a good place to start restoration. We are to love one another, as he loved us. Our churches must have the expression of a love-spirit as a lifestyle, if we want to reach others for Christ. In other words, we must not just talk-the-talk, we must walk-the-walk! James 2:13 includes the phrase, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen Clifton
Used by permission
“Running The Race of Life“
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton
- Dr. Clifton has been preaching at King’s Baptist church in Vero Beach, Florida where he as been serving as Interim Preacher for about 8 months (as of September 2006). Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here.