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Recently I came into contact with some people that are connected to a very famous European church. One of these folks expressed distress that many of the young adults were living together out of wedlock, and others were having sexual relations without the commitment of marriage. Because they had attended my leadership seminar, their eyes were opened to the importance of enforcing discipline. Readers of this newsletter know that I am deeply concerned that Western congregations rarely enforce biblical standards.

I did some research on this church and found that the Pastor had actually written very powerfully on the importance of covenant marriage and the dangers of sexual relations before marriage. He correctly taught that all extra-marital sexual relationships were sin, and presented powerful reasons for limiting sexual relations to within marriage. He presented convincing empirical evidence of the consequences of pre-marital sexual relationships: negative effects after marriage, difficulties maintaining lasting commitments, the lingering pain of broken relationships, disease, the loss of trust and finally the loss of the joy that is especially reserved for those who wait. The most important reason to hold unswervingly to covenant marriage is of course, the commandment of God.

A Culture of Sexual Indulgence in a Church

Yet, how could it be that a culture of sexual indulgence has been established in the context of such fine teaching? The reason was brought out in another statement in one of this pastor's books. He basically stated that the Church was to teach the truth but "to accept all people who come at whatever stage they were in." That certainly should be true for those who are searching and do not profess to be followers of Yeshua. It is equally certain that it is not the measure for professing believers. The unfortunate reality in the conduct of this church community is that the culture of the young adults has undercut the application of the fine teaching of the pastor; the culture has become a stronger influence than his teaching!

Messianic Jews are to Uphold the Standards of the Word

As a Messianic Jewish leader, I would hope that Messianic Jews would be in the forefront of enforcing biblical standards, for the Torah is to go forth from Zion. We embrace the words of Yeshua that we are to teach people to obey all His commandments. Yeshua in us is the key to this obedience. Yeshua has very clear commandments on discipline as well.

Many believers erroneously think that enforcing standards and practicing congregational discipline run contrary to showing love and mercy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hebrews 12:7-11 tells us that God himself disciplines us because He loves us as His children. In Matthew 18:15 Yeshua outlines the process of correction; He commands it. Paul echoes this in Galatians 6:1,2. Of course, if a professing believer is in serious sin and does not repent after the stages of loving confrontation, then this person is to be barred from the fellowship.

Paul says in 1 Cor. 5:10 that followers of Yeshua are not to keep company with immoral people. He clarifies that this does not mean the people of the world, but those who profess to be believers in Yeshua and yet practice sexual immorality, covetousness, extortion, idolatry, reveling, and drunkenness (1 Cor. 5:11). He then asks, "Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside, God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person." (1 Cor. 5:12, 13)

The Consequences of Failing to Enforce Discipline

When a community of believers allows people to practice sin and maintain their involvement in the community, all the while continuing to profess that they are believers in Yeshua, terrible consequences follow. What are these consequences?

For the persons involved in practicing sin, the lack of discipline teaches more than pulpit messages: it says that their sin is really not so serious. They are thereby lulled into complacency. They lose the fear of God, the blessing of God, and finally may even lose salvation, for no one that practices sin will enter the Kingdom of God, either here or in the hereafter. Therefore, not practicing discipline is very unloving. When the consequences of sin are the loss of fellowship in the Body, the person is required to take stock of their behavior and the possibility of real repentance is greatly increased. Discipline as enjoined in the Bible is a mercy from God.

The consequences in the community are enormous. As in this one church, we can create a culture of sin in the community as a whole or in a particular sub-group. When this happens, the community loses the presence and power of God. They will become ineffective. In addition, they will become a source of dishonor to Yeshua. Many in the world will see the congregation as "just a bunch of hypocrites." There is a basic standard of holiness we must maintain. If people fall into sin, repent and fall again, even multiple times, God is merciful both to the person and the community. However, when the person has no intention of repenting but is intent on continuing in sin, this must not be met with indulgence. We do not speak here of visitors or seekers, but those who profess to be believers. The health of marriages and families is at stake in enforcing discipline. We must not let it be said of us that the name of God is blasphemed among the nations due to our sin.

I have been in some kind of pastoral leadership for over 36 years. I have seen our many communities take discipline seriously. The results are wonderful. There is very little divorce and a strong sense of holiness and the presence of God. May we see this in Israel and then from here, may this spread to the nations!

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
12:01 31Dec08 Jesse Bruton -
Succinct, with both truth AND grace. Thank you!

13:13 31Dec08 Marika Kern -
The whole world needs to hear this! I agree 100%!

14:05 31Dec08 G J -
Interesting article, especially in light of the current gay rights and marriage battle currently taking place here in the U.S. It seems one of the arguments made is that the evangelical church in the US allows for the remarriage of those who have no biblical grounds for divorce as well as the tolerance of those who are part of the hook up culture or live together before marriage. Even "gay right" advocates recognize that without the enforcement of standards the church loses moral authority and it's ability to establish truth and ethical standards in shaping society.

14:23 31Dec08 Maribeth Long -
This is a wonderfully written article. In all of the churches I have attended I have never witnessed a spirit of discipline among members of the congregation. I truly believe this accountability is grossly lacking in the Western churches. We, as followers of the one true God, desperately need to separate from the cultural norms of our society and walk in step with what we profess to believe--the word of God.

15:03 Shirley Fox -
This is definitely an absolutely true message. The Western church is so afraid of confrontation, whether it be from fear of losing members, workers, or finances. Whatever the reason, it all appears to be fear-based and we are not to walk by fear but by faith. The Church must rise up!

15:03 Ginny -
Very clear and to the point. Love and acceptance for the believer is expressed differently than for the nonbeliever.

15:43 31Dec08 A reader from Finland -
It is the same way in Finland. Young ladies getting pregnant and having the baby(ies) without formal marriage ties. Parents don't think anything of it except wanting grandchildren. Now, the Lutheran Church may be officially weighing the option of blessing same-sex arrangements. A survey was taken and over half of the Lutheran clergy thought it was okay.

16:18 31Dec08 Phyllis McDowall -
Excellent instruction but many churches want numbers and so they go along with entertainment and not God's Truth which is discipline too. God is Holy and we need Holiness in our living day by day. Thankyou for the standard you are proclaiming and may we see salvation in many of our beautiful young people as even clean living has its reward too and we should give of our best to the Master. Praying too for Our Dear Israel people who are being made to look in the wrong today. God has given this land to Abraham and his people and even though there is going to be many slain in battle, in the end The Messiah will come and deliverance will come.

17:27 31Dec08 Tracy Crossett -
THANK YOU! For in speaking the truth in love, you bring restored hope to someone like me, who lives in one of the most Godless States in America - Washington. I hold the standard in agreement with you, even though I am frequently accused of being a "legalist." I have an understanding of what "freedom from the law of sin and death" really means! I don't have to walk around in the bondage of the old man nature any more. I love this freedom that only comes from knowing my Savior, and the blessings of walking in unashamed obedience to Him. My husband and I just celebrated our 26th Happy Anniversary. We are best friends, and know that in Christ, all things are possible!

19:45 31Dec08 Delight Guthrie -
I wholeheartedly agree. I am fortunate to be in a church where the pastor and leadership have lovingly exercised discipline. It is not always received, and there are those that feel it is not the "Christian" thing to do. Having observed what has happened in churches where sinful lifestyles have been tolerated, is actually proof that it is right, even beyond the scriptures. When the truth finally came out, and the congregation learned things had not been dealt with, it was the very "best" and most faithful that left because they felt betrayed, and that they or their families were not kept safe. What kind of shepherd leaves the wolves among the flock?

23:07 31Dec08 Margareta Malo -
I agree with your teaching on dicipline. As a beliver and diciple of Yeshua our lives are not our own and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore any sexual activity out side marriage is sin and defiles our bodies, souls and spirits. May the Lord convict the church and make it known to its member that the judgement starts with the family of God I Pet 4:17.

12:02 01Jan09 Margaret Preston -
Sexual sin is without doubt one of the most effective ways the enemy of our souls -- the devil, uses to discredit the the Body of Christ. Thank you for your fair, non-judgemental and compassionate essay on a subject that is not spoken of often enough from the leadership of the Church.

06:49 02Jan09 Pastor David Durant -
This is a very strong and relevant article in light of the prevailing culture of unfaithfulness in marriages and the massive divorce rate among Christians. It would seem that we have lost the sanctity of marriage and most of all 'the fear of God.' This is a call for us to enforce the right Biblical discipline in the Church community.

09:06 05Jan09 Svona Yankle -
THANK-YOU for this word!! The son of a close friend of mine is a believer, yet living with his girlfriend who also professes Jesus as her Savior. I have addressed my concerns in regards to GOD's commands for holiness with my friend, but she is too fearful to confront the young couple. I have ordered copies of this article, will pray over it and share it with my friend and her son. May the Righteousness of GOD be upheld, may their eyes be opened to the truth of their lifstyle, may their hearts be moved to repentance!

09:38 07Jan09 anonymous -
I cannot tell you how "on time" was this word for me. I am the child of a missionary pastor and to grow up in church has allowed me to question over and over why is it that many pastors cannot understand the severity of ignoring discipline. I have recently been convicted of this in reference to the last soul the Lord allowed me to usher into the Kingdom. She fell into witchcraft and sexual immorality; it tore my heart to see her wanting to live there and this week has been my third warning. I felt so grieved about it and asked the Lord to assure me I was doing the right thing. But after talking about it with one of the pastors I know, I was told perhaps I was being too severe. I assure you, my words where measured in hope, love and the desire to restore this new soul back to Abba ... but as she put it, "I am not ready to let this man go," so I was very clear with her and explained it is simply impossible to have two masters. Thanks for the message ... I pray for you as the Lord leads the Church from glory to glory!

16:57 09Jan09 Cynthia Maddaluno -
Something is terribly wrong when we raise children in churches both on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights and school 5 days a week, memorizing Bible scripture and still get pregnant out of wedlock, these churches as we know them are seriously missing the mark and that mark is the Torah! I thank pioneers like you and the rest of this Messianic movement for standing up for the truth.

17:36 26Jan09 PJ -
My husband and I are marriage counselors at our church. I believe we would not have near the issues if we had a "Holy Fear" of God. I agree with your article 100%

11:18 30Jan09 anonymous -
I would like to thank Dr. Juster for this wonderful article on sexual sins within the church body. These sins go so deep into the human soul that we cannot even began to name all the many ills of the soul, body and spirit. Believe me, I know in part, the importance of discipline of the body, mind and the heart. It's a growing process through prayer, reading God's Holy Word, Praise To God in all that we do, being in the presence of God and the church body, being led by The Precious Holy Spirit Of Truth. I know that this has worked in my life and in the life of many others and when we as Christians really get down serious with The Lord, then and only then, He can get serious with us.

18:38 13Mar09 Dawn Clary -
Excellent ! We need to obey all of Gods rules not just those we want to.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Redemption on the 70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht
Marty Shoub: Magnificent Ballet Magnificat
Havatzelet: To Be With Him
Asher Intrater: John 17 Prayer