I began this series saying Christians often break fellowship for wrong reasons while ignoring the actual reasons given in scripture. Many of us have had friends drop us like radioactive waste when we changed churches or did the slightest thing to offend them, leaving us clueless as to what we did wrong!.
Confusion in the body of Christ
Let us not forget people who refuse to break fellowship when they should: They stay loyal to a minister after he divorces his wife and mother of their children to marry their nanny and is right back in the pulpit after the honeymoon. Or they remain loyal to the pastor who weekly manipulates their hard earned money out of their pockets to line his own, or the pastor who creates a church culture so toxic that if anyone raises the slightest question about anything, they are the ones accused of having a demon.
I want to teach the Word in context. So I don't want anyone to think Paul's list of habitual sins in I Corinthians 5 that qualify as reasons to break fellowship includes family members, co-workers, is license for divorce, or other situations outside the context in which he was writing.
Not talking kids and workplace situations
He was not sharing (nor was I) about adult children who once walked with the Lord but are now living in one or more of those various sins, nor was he talking about co-workers at the job.
For co-workers, you were hired to work, not witness or discuss spiritual things, so work. They aren't persecuting you, they just want you to do what you were hired to do; work. Paul said to work not with eye service as a man-pleaser, but unto the Lord who sees and knows all. Let your witness be your quality work.
For adult children I will suggest this; They know they are living in sin, or are an addict, and that you are praying for them. They don't need mom and dad expressing their disapproval every time you see them, nor do they need to hear a sermon. What they need is for you to be mom and dad. Romans 2:4 says, 'Do you not know it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.' Show them God's goodness in you.
Let them see the Lord's faithfulness in your life, and talk wisdom to them. Help them make right decisions, and know that none of their behavior caught the Lord by surprise. Pray for them what Paul prayed, and I pray this for myself regularly, according to Ephesians 1:17-18 and Colossians 1:9 - that they may receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in Him, that the eyes of their understanding would be opened, that they may be filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
The good news is the man repented
There is good news with the man of I Corinthians 5. You'll recall he had an ongoing sexual relationship with his step-mother, Paul pronounced judgment on him and turned him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh for an early death so he would be saved - but he repented and was restored. Don't let that point be lost - after judgment was pronounced, he repented and it was accepted. So what indicates a true repentance?
Paul says in II Corinthians 7:8 of the effect of his first letter to them: "Though the letter caused you sorrow I do not regret it, though I did a little for I see it caused you grief and sorrow, though only for a little while."
He said he caused them 'grief' or 'sorrow', which is the Greek word 'lupe'. the Amplified Version says 'pain'. This is not just emotional pain and grief, but deeper, spiritual grief. It may take a sharp, confrontational word to them, as Paul's letter was, that caused the 'wake up' moment.
II Corinthians 7:9 continues: "I am glad now, not that you were pained, but that you were pained to repentance, for you felt a grief that God meant for you to feel, so that you might not suffer any loss..."
Godly grief and repentance is all about God and draws us to Him. False repentance is focused on self keeps a person from God. There is a Godly sorrow and that draws us to Him which allows us to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need - restoration. It is a healthy part of repentance.
And the next verse defines it even more: "For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret. But worldly grief is deadly (the hopeless sorrow characteristic of the pagan world)." (Amplified Version)
The people we must break fellowship with need to experience a Godly pain of the heart which directs them to Him. God is permitted to direct a godly sorrow because our hearts are turned to Him to give Him that permission. Have they given the Lord permission to deal with them on this subject? Have they experienced that grief God wants them to experience? David did. The man and the congregation of I Corinthians 5 did.
Experience the Holy Spirit, or knowing God?
Because true repentance flows from this revelation from God that we have sinned, I wonder if because so many churches provide a church experience instead of a God experience, people learn church-based repentance and formula repentance rather than a heavenly revelation based repentance the Bible describes.
People are trained to go to an auditorium to experience God rather than first experiencing God through the week in their personal lives. A whole congregation following a "Pray this prayer after me" instruction has become 'repentance'. They are trained to experience God corporately through worship or teaching, but once they walk out that door they don't know Him individually - they only know His presence corporately.
Because sin is personal between the human heart and God, the auditorium can offer little help as they try to battle sin. Repentance requires a person to pray their own prayer from their heart, not follow someone else's idea of what they think a person's heart should express.
As a result, millions of Christians are stuck powerless in a love/hate relationship with themselves and God wondering why He won't deliver them, ignorant that the power over their sin flows from revelation of the Father on a personal basis, not on a corporate basis.
If not corporate anointing, then...
I've seen people come forward week after week to altar calls yet are nothing bettered. Some years ago I began discreetly asking a few about their lives and found a common trait - each came forward expecting the pastor (prophet, teacher) to lay hands on them and if they kept coming forward, one day, Lord willing, hopefully, if the anointing is heavy enough and there is an open heaven that night, and the pastor holds his tongue just right, God will touch them and deliver them.
This culture of 'someone laying hands on me is the key to my breakthrough' is in contrast to scripture. Repentance is the first word of salvation. Hebrews 6:1 lists repentance as the first characteristic of the foundation of faith. Has the seeker friendly, politically correct, don't pressure anyone, and don't mention 'sin', culture robbed people of a true salvation experience involving repentance?
We were created sovereign beings which means neither God nor the devil are able to make us do anything. Many in the body of Christ need to find backbone, find determination, and stop waiting for some anointed magic beans to solve their sin problem, and just repent. Often though, they love their sin more than our presence in their lives, and would rather stay in sin than seek God with their whole heart.
It's always harder work to seek God than seek sin. The standard life line the church throws to people in need of repentance is, 'Come back next week and hear the message' (or the guest speaker) because many pastors have lost or never had in their own lives the knowledge of how to seek God, so can't lead others.
Just talk to Him from your innermost heart
Again, for many in the body of Christ, they know how to pray corporately, worship corporately, receive teaching corporately, even repent corporately.
But they don't know how to just talk to the Father conversationally one on one (nor repent on a one to one basis). Find reasons to talk to Him - tell Him of the beautiful morning, on the great timing of something good in your life, and of that issue you are struggling with. Don't get into the habit of you and He struggling with a sin yet never actually talking to Him about it - be blunt, be honest - He can handle it. He has invested in you for the long haul - eternity.
He knew of our struggles at this time before He even created the world, yet Jesus still died for us. He not only loves you, He likes you. Wow. Once you share your heart to Him openly and honestly, be quiet, and let Him share His heart openly and honestly with you, which may take weeks or months. Walk with Him in that. That revelation leads to a repentance that will never be regretted, and will draw you closer to Him than you ever have been before.