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Dealing With Mess in Discipleship

November 30, 2018

Discipleship Blog Author

Scott Long

Discipleship Pastor

Once in a while I will spend the day cleaning the entire house. My wife and kids will be at practice or running errands, and I'll get things looking nice. After a few hours, everything will be in order and looking pristine until they get home for a solid fifteen minutes, and everything is a mess again. Without fail, every time while they are gone things are tidy, but when they come home, it gets messy. The only solution is to either have no people around or to learn how to deal with the mess. Discipleship is often like this. If you have people In your life, you will have to deal with mess, for there is no way around it in a fallen world. Dhati Lewis says discipleship is inviting people into relationship and challenging them to change. In other words, when discipling people, we must learn to gently confront sin, calling people to continued repentance and faith in Jesus. All of this is in the context of a loving relationship where we stay with them rather than giving up on them, continually pointing them to the hope of the gospel. Our goal in discipleship is leading people to be conformed to the image of Christ, helping them to put off sin and put on godliness.

"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present every one mature in Christ.For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." Colossians 1:28-29

It can sometimes be a challenge to know how to walk with people through their mess. Our tendency is either to be "nice" and never really deal with the problem or to be "harsh" in a way that lacks grace and crushes them under guilt, shame, and condemnation. But there's a third way-to be "kind" with gospel courage-which is the way that Jesus dealt with sin. Kindness is firm truth on the inside, packaged in gracious sympathy on the outside. Truth is aimed at exposing error and calling for change, while grace is aimed at healing wounds and removing guilt. Niceness is void of truth which doesn't sanctify (John 17:17), while harshness undercuts the gospel and makes people buy into performance-based religion (Col. 2:21-23). Kindness embodies gospel grace and gospel truth as you walk with a person to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Here are a few things to think about when confronting sin in your D-Group.

Don't be afraid to say something: If you are noticing patterns of sin in a person's life, or if they are willingly sharing repetitive sin in d-group, the loving thing to do is to have a conversation with them about it (Matt. 18:15, Gal. 6:1). Try seeing if they would be willing to open a dialogue about it with statements like, "I've noticed this in your life, can we talk about it?" or "this seems to be reoccurring in your life, can we discuss it?" These questions are not accusatory, and they allow the person to share their heart. Usually people either confess what is obvious or give you some idea on what some of the underlying factors are. You may need to spend some time in prayer asking God for the courage to have this conversation before having it.

Prayerfully show them truth from Gods Word: Always be ready to show them a passage or two highlighting the truth which they are undercutting. This simply helps them see that we aren't trying to hold them to our own standard or indoctrinate them with our opinions. Also, we know that God's Word is profitable to bring necessary conviction and lead them into the truth (2 Tim. 3:16). It may be helpful to say something like, "As disciples, we want to honor the Lord in all that we do; in love, I want to show you this passage." It's important to remember that the biggest issue with sin isn't the action, but what their hearts are set on (other than Jesus) that leads to the action. (see the below attached resource)

Lovingly show them how God's Grace is sufficient to cover their sin: We believe that the gospel is sufficient to cover all sin (past, present, and future) for the believer in Jesus. There are no limits on how many times God's grace will forgive our transgressions (Rom. 5:20). Here we are reminding them that If they will confess their sin, God will forgive their sin. In this we are also calling them to apply the truth and seek to turn from their sin and change. As you are reminding them of the gospel, you are at the same time demonstrating the gospel by not holding judgment or criticism over their heads.

Assure them that you will help them pursue repentance:The most challenging part to all of this is answering the following question: where do we go from here? How do we tell them in the words of Jesus, "Go and sin no more?" We haven't really loved them if we don't call them to repent. We also haven't loved them if we aren't willing to help them repent for the long haul. Maybe that means offering them a place to stay while they are trying to figure out how to honor God in a relationship. Maybe it's constant contact and prayer together so they aren't allowing their idle time to lead them to temptation. It could simply be helping them identify the heart issues beneath their actions while helping them chart a plan to battle their sin with gospel and holding them accountable to that plan. This could mean a lot of tiresome conversations and a long dance of two steps forward and three steps back on repeat. A good principle to live by while walking with someone in grace and truth is as long as they are willing to show an effort to fight sin, we will stick with them. As JD Greear says, "Repentance Is not the absence of struggle; It Is the absence of settled defiance."

Below is a link to a battle plan to help someone identify how to set a course of walking in repentance.
www.highview.org/discipleship/resources "Fighting idols"

Gospel Centered Discipleship
Anytime you can pick up a good book or resource to better equip you to make disciples who make disciples you should read it. Johnathan Dodson has a book called "Gospel Centered Discipleship." The theme of this book is to help disciple makers avoid the extremes of legalism and license while examining our motives for investing in others. I have found it to be a helpful reference especially when walking with people who struggle understanding how the gospel invades every area of life.

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