He’s Moving, Cast Another Stone!

I had planned another DiM post for today… it will have to wait for Tuesday. Today, we’ll be commenting on some current events, church discipline, and public stoning in the social-media square.

If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw that I was working through old Friday Sermon posts trying to salvage those whose links pointed to LIBERATE.org, which has been closed indefinitely. It was very tough for me, and I was only able to salvage one post by finding the lecture and .pdf hosted on different sites. I’m ever so thankful that we still have access to that lecture by Rod Rosbenbladt, (Church History | The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church). Sadly, the same could not be said of Tullian Tchvidjian’s lecture entitled “It is Not Finished” that he gave at this year’s LIBERATE 2015 “It is Finished”. That lecture in particular was a great blessing to my wife and me. I’ve never met Tullian, I only know of him through his sermons, lectures, and that he’s considered a friend by Pastor Chris Rosebrough.

Background Information

We have to begin here. Let me defer to public information.
From the information put out by Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church:

In June 2015, after an admission of moral failure which disqualified him from active service, Tullian resigned from his position as our senior pastor and the founding director of LIBERATE. Given his leading role in this ministry, it was with heavy hearts that our Church Leadership decided to close LIBERATE indefinitely. This included canceling our 2016 Conference and refunding all registration fees.

To help protect Tullian, his family, and the integrity of his message, we have moved his sermons into a secure archive for the foreseeable future. Sadly, his messages were being slanderously misused in the media and on the Internet. We are prayerfully considering when and how his sermon archive might be made available again to the general public. We appreciate your patience and prayers during this season.

Some additional information from the associated Presbytery was published by the folks at the Aquila Report:

The South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted at its meeting on August 11, 2015 to depose Tullian Tchividjian from the ministry. The PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) says that, “Deposition is the degradation of an officer from his office.” That is, the minister has his ordination credentials removed so that he no longer can perform the duties of a minister of the Gospel.

The Presbytery issued the following statement:

The South Florida Presbytery met for its regular stated meeting on August 11, 2015 and acted on a case concerning TE Tullian Tchvidjian. While Pastor Tullian Tchividjian was deposed of his pastoral credentials, the South Florida Presbytery is committed to continuing to offer him pastoral care. Our goal in doing this is to both protect the integrity of the Church from which his credentials were given while, at the same time, wrapping Tullian in the grace offered by Jesus Christ to all those who confess sin, pursue repentance and desire restoration.

Tchvidjian resigned as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on June 21, confessing to an extra-marital relationship. The Coral Ridge congregation voted on June 28 to formally accept Tchvidjian’s resignation. He had served as pastor of Coral Ridge since being called there in 2009.

The PCA’s Book of Church Order has a section on restoration from various church censures, including deposition. The steps for restoration are clearly outlined including this statement, “In the restoration of a minister who has been deposed, it is the duty of the Presbytery to proceed with great caution.”

This is church discipline, folks. Tullian confessed, resigned from his position at his local church, and then was deposed of his pastoral credentials by the South Florida Presbytery. By all accounts, Tullian has repented of the sin of adultery. It is now time to follow Paul’s instructions to the Galatians.

Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

He Filed for Divorce… Cast Another stone!

We have learned that Tullian filed for divorce, a point that many have tried to use against him. I wanted to share a post by Paul Tripp, but that source page is now unavailable. All that remains is the Christian Post article that references Paul Tripp’s now-missing announcement.

In a statement posted to his website Wednesday, Tripp bemoaned the public spectacle Tchividjian’s marriage had become before explaining how they arrived at the painful decision.

“I wish we lived in a world where pastoral counsel and heart, life and ministry restoration could take place in private, but those days are regretfully long gone. So, in light of the news getting out that Tullian Tchividijian has filed for divorce and to mitigate any unnecessary and unhealthy speculation regarding the details of the situation, as Tullian’s friend and counselor, I have decided to post this statement,” Tripp began in the statement.

“Sadly, there are times in this broken world where things that have been damaged by sin don’t get put together again. So, we groan, reminded that sin still lives inside us, that we live in a shattered world and that God’s work of redemption is not yet complete. So, it has been with sadness that I, along with others, have come slowly and cautiously to the conclusion that his marriage is irreparably broken,” he continued.

Tripp explained that Tchividjian, who resigned as lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida in June, after confessing to an “inappropriate” relationship with another woman who was not his wife after finding out that she had also been cheating on him, tried hard to save the marriage but the trust in his marriage could not be re-established.

“From the point of Tullian’s confession and repentance, he has been committed to dealing with the issues of his heart and to restoring his marriage. Much grace, counsel, thought, prayer and action has been invested over a six month period of time with the hope of healing the marriage. But sadly, there are times when the trust is so deeply broken and patterns so set in place that it seems best to recognize that brokenness, cry out for God’s grace, mourn, commit to forgiveness, rest in the truths of the Gospel and with a grieved heart, move on,” he wrote.

He added: “I remain committed to Tullian as a brother and counselor and I will continue to give him the Gospel as he now deals with what we together hoped and prayed would not happen.”

Tchividjian and his wife, Kim, married in 1994 and have three children together.


While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.

— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) August 21, 2015


On the day he filed for divorce last Thursday, Tchividjian noted on Twitter: “While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.”

In another tweet on Monday, however, he noted in another tweet that he still felt God’s presence.


Sometimes God reminds you that he’s there when you’re looking out an airplane window and begging him to show himself: pic.twitter.com/HrngrZ1znM

— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) August 25, 2015


Frankly, I’m very disappointed in reading many of the comments that flooded social media criticizing him of being too quick to abandon the marriage. I, for one, refuse to levy a judgement over what I do not know first-hand… but what we do know is that the struggles in his marriage have been ongoing for some time now. Tullian’s marriage covenant was with his wife and it was before God. I don’t get a say in the matter, neither for nor against. I mourn the devastation this divorce will wreck on all involved, and I pray for the Grace, Mercy, and Healing that only God the Holy Spirit can provide.

Please remember from our discussion in yesterday’s Gospel Wednesday post, I do hold a permanence view of marriage under the Law. There is no Lawful scenario for divorce… divorce is always a sin. Having said that, the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the sole remedy for sin, and is sufficient for all sin, including the sin of divorce. Indeed, the Gospel still brings life to believers caught in a transgression.

He Has a Job in a Church… Cast Another Stone!

I am exceedingly grateful for online discernment ministers, as I am for the local police force. The job is difficult, draining, and can become quite consuming. In the same way that Police officers need to guard themselves against treating every citizen as a criminal, I think it is important for us to guard ourselves against treating everyone as a wolf, and every story a proof of apostasy. Such is the case with the revelation that Tullian Tchvidjian was offered a staff position at his new church, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (Our Ministry Staff). Let’s work through what we see on the church website and practice some basic discernment, shall we?

Is this a Pastoral Position?

No, it isn’t. This church’s website has separate staff directories, Senior Pastor, Pastoral Staff, and Ministry Staff. Now there is room here to question the church polity in play here, particularly if you are not Presbyterian and are unfamiliar with their system (I’m still trying to figure it out), but that is a question for Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (WCPC) and even the South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church Association (PCS)… but this does not fall on Tullian. For those who claim to demand justice for the sake of the Gospel, you’d do well to address the leadership of the WCPC rather than cast another stone at Tullian. I think at this point it is helpful to remember the biblical qualifications for Elders as laid out in Titus 1:5-9.

Titus 1:5-9 (ESV) | Qualifications for Elders

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Whatever the WCPC does under the SFP of the PCA does regarding Tullian, I have to resign myself to trust that they will keep themselves accountable to the Scriptures.

Is this a special position carved out for Tullian?

Possibly. On the Ministry Staff page we see the following positions:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Facilities Manager (male)
  • Facilities Maintenance (male)
  • Youth Ministries Director
  • Youth Ministry Assistant x2
  • Director of Guest Care
  • Director of Music (male)
  • Director of Preschool
  • Director of Nurseries
  • Director of Children’s Ministry (male)
  • Director of Ministry Development (Tullian’s Job)

Look at the list of staff positions… and look at the ones labelled “director”. I’ve seen folks in social media blast this as clear breach of the qualifications of a Deacon, since there are only 2 offices in the New Testament, Elder and Deacon (1 Tim 3). If these positions are deacon positions… only 5 are currently held by men. Only half of the “directors” are men. Think that one through. These are not deacon positions. I don’t know how the PCA squares their definitions of “staff” with the Biblical Offices, but as I said earlier, that is a discussion to take up with them, not with Tullian for accepting a staff position.

What Will Satisfy Your Need for Justice?

I confess that I am exposed to a lot more Reformed Baptist writing than anything Presbyterian. So the vast majority of the stone-casting I’m witnessing comes from the non-Presbyterian Reformed camp. My biggest question to the social media fervor is, “what will satisfy your need for justice?” What penance must Tullian pay for you to be satisfied? Is it your place to seek satisfaction? Or does that fall to his overseers, those who have been given the charge of shepherding the flock under their stewardship?

In Romans 14, we see Paul addressing some specific schisms going on in the church of that day, but Paul’s prescriptions for those problems ring out in a broader sense. Particularly in the following verse:

Romans 14:4 (ESV) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

and in the next prescription:

Romans 14:7-12 (ESV) 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is not to say that we are not to identify sin, we must. We must preach Law and Gospel faithfully. So then, is it a sin for Tullian to work? Is it a sin for the WCPC to give him a staff position? If you cannot clearly identify the sin, then you are in no place to pass judgement on the servant of another. Should sin arise, I trust it will be addressed in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20, and that chain of escalation will be within WCPC or at the very least the PCA.

Conclusion

Put down your stones. I am deeply concerned for Tullian Tchvidjian and want to see him restored. I worry that the publicity is hurting that process. I’m worried about him remaining faithful throughout the divorce proceedings. I worry about his children, his estranged wife, and I’m worried about the woman with whom he sinned. All of this is deeply troubling… but I’m appalled by what I’m seeing in social media regarding this man. Skepticism is natural, but let’s not walk in the flesh. Let us walk in the Spirit by faith and extend grace and forgiveness and honor the authorities put in place by God.

Matthew 18:29-35 (ESV) 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (ESV) | Final Greetings

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

PS: There are already some wonderful examples of grace, humility, and clarity in the blogosphere.

The Taste of Crow

► Clarity on the TT Situation

CTT | Church Discipline

We are living in a time when the visible Church in our day has wandered off-mission in many ways. We have Pastors who think they need to run Christ’s Church as though it were a business with themselves as CEO, we have churches whose sole aim is to entertain unbelievers without preaching Law and Gospel, and we have other churches re-writing the Law as they (or our pagan culture) sees fit, and much, much more. There are many discernment ministries popping up, calling Celebrity pastors and church communities to repentance and a return to Biblical Christianity. There are so many churches that are put together by man’s ideas rather than what is clearly written in the scriptures, that when most people talk about “Church Discipline” we immediately think of Spiritual Abuse like what we saw with Mark Driscol at Mars Hill. It is important to remember, however, that these men abused Church Discipline, they didn’t invent it. Discipline comes from the Lord God. So, let us look first at the purpose of Discipline in our Christian walk.

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

We are going to begin in Hebrews, Chapter 12. A very interesting thing about the first portion of this chapter, is that it is almost always used in the “feel-good encouragement” that tells the Christian, “hey, it isn’t up to you and your works to perfect your faith”. That is absolutely, true, but it isn’t the whole message Paul was conveying. You see, He perfects our faith but it isn’t always a feel-good process.

Hebrews 12:1-17 (ESV) | Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

So  you see, the writer of Hebrews is treating the Discipline of the Lord God as a form of Grace. Lack of discipline is a sign of illegitimacy. There is grace in discipline, for its purpose is to bring the son into repentance so that he might be spared final judgement. God’s word has very strong warning against leaders who abuse their position, but see here that lack of discipline condemns the sinner to judgement. The examples of the sexually immoral and Esau are powerful examples that carry much weight. The sexually immoral being left to their own demise is an easier concept to grasp for most than the unholiness of Esau, especially for those of us today who don’t have an understanding of birthright.

We’ll focus on the sexually immoral by looking at a sub plot that takes place between Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. But first, let us begin with what Jesus taught regarding rebuking a brother who has sinned against you.

Correcting a Brother in Christ

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) | If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Jesus made a clear progression of escalation (I tried to highlight it using color of text). What we see in many present-day accounts of spiritual abuse, church leadership pronouncing public judgement on individuals who sought to follow this prescribed progression. A concerned member of the congregation goes to the pastor to point out questionable teaching in private, and then the pastor and his staff shun and isolate the one who dared question the visionary leader. Such actions serve only to protect the CEO’s reputation rather than the health of the Church or of the congregation. On the other hand, if the church fails to do its part to address open sin within the congregation, the entire body is defiled, as we see in 1 Corinthians 5.

Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

1 Corinthians 5 (ESV)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

What is happening in today’s progressive-liberal churches is not new… it happened in Corinth. A man had his father’s wife, and the church was arrogant in their tolerance of this fact. Paul was furious. He demanded that the individual be removed from the local church. This is upper limit of Church Discipline (though some theonomists seem to think otherwise, they are confusing the covenants).

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul wastes no time instructing how the discipline is to be delivered. It was to be in the assembly. The time for private rebuke was long passed. The sin was public and it was tolerated. It was then reported to Paul who pronounced judgement against the sin and the rebel.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

And this is absolutely important to understand, brothers and sisters. It is not for us to judge the outsiders, the unbelievers, those who are still dead in their sins and tresspasses, condemned by their unbelief. God judges them. Paul even said something to the effect of, “hey, when I told you not to associate with sexually immoral people, I meant among those who call themselves Christians”. We preach the gospel to the lost in the world, calling them out of their sin by the Grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those who have been born again yet give themselves over to the desires of the flesh, knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are to be corrected (Galatians 6:1 (ESV) Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted) but as long as they remain unrepentant we are not to associate with them. Why? So that they might come to repentance, and that their sin might not leaven the whole congregation.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, that they were all in sin for allowing this public sin to go unchallenged, undisciplined, and possibly even celebrated in some twisted sense (I’m speculating on the brand of arrogance Paul points out twice). The individual was to be turned over to Satan. Was that because Satan is in charge? No. God is sovereign over His sons and daughters. Discipline comes from God. We live by His Grace. Therefore, when our rebellion requires discipline, He allows the enemy to take shots at us that are less restrained, so that we might repent. The goal of the excommunication isn’t to condemn the man, but to save his soul in the long-run, even if his flesh suffers damage from the enemy (See also Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)).

Forgiveness Must Quickly Accompany Repentance

The goal of Church Discipline is not condemnation, but conviction unto repentance. We (as individuals and as a Church) must be ready to forgive, quick to love, and faithful to restore a brother who has repented of sin. Such was the case for the unnamed individual in Paul’s letters.

2 Corinthians 2:3-11 (ESV) | Forgive the Sinner

And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This is the goal of Church Discipline. It is not loving to interfere or undermine Discipline that is just. As a father, there are few things more frustrating than to have someone interrupt my correction of my children’s behavior to “spare them” from my discipline. My children are to follow my rules, because I love them and I know what is best for them. Similarly, when the Church is exercising just, biblical discipline, the congregation must honor the purpose of Biblical discipline and resist the desire to coddle sinners. Remember what we saw in Hebrews 12, the Discipline of the Lord is a form of grace.

WWUTT | Have Nothing to Do With Them? (Church Discipline)

[youtube https://youtu.be/SOUJdNzwP-Q]

 

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge