In one sense, that is a good question to ask. We are no better than any other Christian; we struggle with sin on a daily basis as much as they do. Maybe our sins are more private, and their sins are more public. Or maybe we have just learnt the lingo better—we know what to say in answer to people’s questions. We give them an answer that will ‘satisfy’ them, say enough to make them think we are being totally open and honest when actually we are hiding some deep-seated sin.
If this describes you, then don’t get all proud thinking you are somehow a higher class of Christian or become smug that you are actually still managing to dabble about in sinful patterns of behaviour. If this is you, I would strongly urge you to confess your sin to someone and get it all out in the open.
The Bible is clear about us correcting, rebuking, and challenging those who claim to be Christians and yet are still messing about in the devil’s playground.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.(Heb. 3:12–14)
Sin is Deceitful
The writer to the Hebrews wrote this letter to encourage Jewish converts not to return to their old ways, not to return to sinful patterns. He has been building his argument up to this point in the letter to show how Jesus is much better than anything else—He is better than angels, better than Moses.
In Hebrews 2:1, the author says we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard. We have a responsibility for ourselves but also for those around us. That is why he says to exhort one another daily.
The word ‘exhort’ means to urge, advise, caution. It is an active word. It’s not like saying: “Please would you mind stopping sleeping around.” It’s almost like shaking someone and saying: “You’ve got to stop this, you are dishonouring the Lord with your behaviour. I don’t want you to fall away because of this. Christ died for you, paid the penalty for all of your sins. Do not turn your back on him.”
I guarantee that if you don’t say that to a fellow believer, their pals, Mum, Granny, or whoever are not going to be the ones to say it to them. They aren’t bothered if you aren’t living for Jesus 100%. It is a very, very serious thing when someone claiming to be a follower of Jesus starts to drift away. Know too that this doesn’t just happen with one decision, in a sudden change of heart. This drifting is a result of thousands of small decisions. Missing the odd church service; patching your one-to-one a few times; not turning up to prayer meetings; not serving in the church anymore.
It’s like the illustration of the frog in hot water. I’m sure you are all familiar with it but apparently if you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, it will jump out immediately (smart frog!). However, if you put the frog in when the water is cold and then slowly heat the water, bringing it to a boil gradually, the frog will stay in because it doesn’t notice that the water is getting hotter. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to do that, but anyway, it gives us a good illustration of what happens if we leave sin unchecked in our lives or in the lives of those around us.
Sin is Serious
We don’t realise how seriously God takes sin. There are a couple of examples in the Old Testament, I’ll just give you the references and you can read them later on (see Num. 15:22–29, 32–36; 2 Sam. 6:5–8). We like to put sins in categories in order to justify ourselves. We like to think that the sins we commit aren’t actually that bad.
We can fall into the same temptation with those we are discipling. It’s easier to challenge someone if they are sleeping around and getting drunk every weekend, rather than someone who is not being honest with their boss or the benefits office. But in the sight of God every and all sin is serious and needs to be stopped and dealt with.
Of course, we won’t be perfect this side of glory, but we should be seeing regular, consistent growth in the lives of those we are discipling. We should, and in fact must, challenge sinful behaviour, thoughts, and attitudes. If we don’t, then we are actually doing a disservice to the individual and we ourselves aren’t obeying the Word.
The end of those verses I quoted earlier in Hebrews say, “If we have come to share in Christ. . . .” We can’t let things slide and think that it doesn’t matter. If you are in Christ, then you should be striving to be like Christ. You are either in or out. It’s not like we can do the hokey cokey with Christ, one foot in and one foot out. You’re either in or out.
Stick Close to Jesus
Those that have professed Christ need to be reminded, urged, and exhorted to keep going. Stick in. Remember what Christ died for. His death wasn’t a half-hearted thing. He didn’t die because he had nothing better to do that day. He died to bring us into a right relationship with the Father. He bore the punishment that out sins rightly deserved. Think about the complete and total agony He went through on the cross to buy our pardon. It is very arrogant of us to think that we can accept what He has done but then not really take sin seriously. Our sin matters to God and it should matter to us too.
So, in answer to the question posed at the beginning, we have the right—the responsibility—to challenge another believer because the Lord has commanded that we do so. He has entrusted that to us. That is why it is so important to be part of a local church where you can be in these types of relationships with other believers and where you can sit under the Word preached faithfully.