HOW TO CHANGE A CONGREGATION
THROUGH IRON SHARPENING
"...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot , or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Christ is preparing the church for its rapture. He wants and is demanding that it be holy at that time. The latter rain revival is to have a double portion of the former rain revival and help in the preparing of the church for its rapture to heaven. The harvest of tares (Matthew 13) is to help purify the church by removing the apostates and false prophets of the church in the last days. A third method of the Lord's purification of the church is the restoration of the ministry of iron sharpening to the church of the last days.
Christ Jesus wants a powerful church for the latter rain revival, and the church must be purified to reach the power needed for that time. Some argue that the church will always have sin. Does that mean we should tolerate and engender more sin? God forbid! We have been blind to many sins. Some sins we don't want to admit. We have tended to play church - while the fires of hell rage about the church. Iron sharpening needs to be exercised daily.
The sins of the church will out. One method that the Lord has used to make the church get serious about restoring true iron sharpening, is to shine the spotlight on the sins within the church and its leadership. The world has laughed and criticized the church. They have seen hidden sins revealed, and they have made many a saint hang their head in shame.
The answer is mutual, loving iron sharpening exhortation. We have dishonored God by neglecting to stir up this gift in the church.
True iron sharpening is the supernatural exercising of the ministry of comforting the hurting, encouraging the downcast, correcting the ones in error, guiding the wayward, defending the victims, and rebuking the victimizers. This ministry encourages us to get up next to the hurting, falling, troubled saints and help them.
Most sins within the church are not blatant. Some criticize another because they are hurt themselves. Some cry and become discouraged because of another's criticism. Some gossip facts that God allowed them to know for the purpose of intercession. Until the saints are exhorted properly in the Lord, these sins will continue.
In I Corinthians 5, it was not the incest, but the failure of the congregation to use the proper corrective iron sharpening exhortation, that bothered Paul the most. Evidently, the congregation thought it was doing great. They probably looked at the sin, and thought how loving, patient, and accepting, they were being. Many a congregation today has also prided itself on its tolerance of sins within the congregation.
Paul said of the congregation in Corinth:
I Corinthians 5:2,6-8
"And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned...Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened..."
Because it had gone on so long, it would take drastic action in Corinth to correct the problem. Had they had the ministry of iron sharpening in operation, the problem could have been handled without such drastic action.
In one congregation, every pastor since its inception had been chased out by a handful of troublemakers within the church. In between times of chasing out the pastors, these same troublemakers posed as respectable supporters of the church. They built friendships within the congregation. Then when lies, rumors, gossip, critical attacks needed to again be used to chase out a pastor, the friends within the congregation were afraid of offending these troublemakers. The congregation hung their heads in shame as pastors were unfairly driven from the church. After the event, the troublemakers were again and again welcomed and loved in the congregation. Their lies, deceit, and despicable acts were forgotten by most. This allowed the next pastor to go through the same process soon. If proper exhortation had taken place, and if the congregation had followed God's prescribed plan of church discipline, many a pastor could have been spared the lies, and shameful accusations framed against them. Many who fled the church when they saw the shameful acts of the troublemakers would still be attending that building of worship. Some who backslid at the sight of so-called saints acting in such sinful ways would be serving the Lord yet.
Every single member of a congregation who is aware of a situation is sinning every moment, in fact is a participator in the sin of the identified sinners... unless proper action is taken to correct the sin. Iron sharpening is to be done, to avoid such horrid examples.
Sharpening is the ministry given to a congregation to correct problems of sin. Unless someone goes lovingly to the person involved in the scandal with the object of establishing the truth, effecting righteousness, and bringing reconciliation -- the sin is poison to the whole of the congregation.
Condoning the sin by inaction represents rebellion against God and His Word. The congregations have too long tolerated treachery, gossip, theft, sexual immorality, oppression, pride, criticism, and spiritual abuse. It has made the church to become an institution that the world can easily condemn. The church appears directionless. The unreconciled divisions and conflicts contradict the message that the church is to be preaching.
Step one in iron sharpening - CONFESSION OF FAULTS
The first thing that must be done to start this ministry is to confess our faults and sins.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another..."
We are uncomfortable about this part, and it has kept many a congregation from ever beginning an iron sharpening ministry. We fear standing before many to confess inner, secret sins of which we are ashamed. Yet, the verse does not say that it must always be done publicly before all of the congregation.
Confession begins with God, but then an intercessor needs to be sought. This intercessor with love (not a gossip or a criticizer) can be the one to whom the sins and faults are confessed. Then this intercessor can go to God on your behalf and seek guidance with the confessor.
Because the Roman Catholic congregations have had priest and the confessional, many protestant congregations have totally (and un-Scripturally) neglected the necessity of the obedience to James 5:16. Since some have mis-used, and mis-applied the confession of sins and faults does not mean we should throw out the truth of the teaching. God does want us to go to a loving intercessor and confess faults. If one cannot confess to a loving intercessor what has already been confessed and repented to God, then there is something unreal in the confession to God.
The confession is meant to involve a real encounter with a real person. This kind of confession brings healing. It opens the way for deliverance and healing for the one who is confessing. It startles the wayward into a deeper awareness of the sinfulness of the sin. It humbles the person to admit their lack of perfection, and thus allows the Spirit to proceed with the healing and restoration. It also benefits the person hearing the confession. It allows them to intercede and then be used with the ministry of exhortation by the Holy Spirit.
It will take great changes within congregations to effect this type of confession.
First, the congregation must realize the only aim is reconciliation.
Secondly, the intercessors must be willing to give of themselves wholeheartedly to the ministry of intercession and exhortation. The brothers and sisters who have faults must agree to not withdraw when sin has been committed. All must refuse to give up when disruption, sin, and faults occur.
If the ministry of confession can be effected within a congregation, the congregation will have revival. Whenever God begins giving a congregation revival, He tests them. The test is to purify the congregation from its remaining sins. Sins that hinder, sins that cripple, sins that spot and wrinkle the church are to be exposed and confessed. If the church adequately did the ministry of confession, intercession and exhortation... the revival would continue and grow.
To avoid this confession part, will avoid the furthering of the revival. The stubborn sins that the saints refuse to confess will extinguish revival fires. True revival continues as the saints continue to expose their sins to God, and seek an intercessor to pray with them about the sins.
EXHORTING BESETTING SINS IN THE CONGREGATION
The ministry of iron sharpening is being revived within the last day church. Just as the ministry of intercession has seen a revival of exercise, so the ministry of exhortation is being stirred into revitalization. The procedures need to be studied. The operation of the ministry needs understood. The mis-use and mis-application of procedures of doing this ministry needs correction.
The besetting sins of a congregation are the sins that arise from weakness. They could be called "addictive sins." They are sins like - bad temper, bad disposition, perpetual grouchiness, critical spirit, gossip, etc.
"...the sin that doth so easily beset us..."
Congregations are haunted by unhappy Christians who don't have victory over specific sins. Within the congregations are people who are angry, bitter, untruthful, greedy, gossipy, etc. From these sins come an array of church problems. If left to continue in a congregation, these besetting sins will keep a group from real revival, from the power of God being able to effect changes in an area.
Why do these sins exist and continue? There are reasons:
and congregations that have ceased to allow iron sharpening to function.
Some Christians are so naive about sin. Some become so impressed about the potential of victorious Christian living that they try to ignore sins about them. A congregation can become so "victory conscious" that they sin and pretend it is not there. It is vital that a congregation become aware of sins within the camp. Joshua did not know of Achan's sin, and it cost the nation a crucial battle. We must open our eyes to sin, and not only admit it - but begin to deal with it.
Some are not just blind to the sin about them, they have entered into the sin. The love for God has been replaced by a love of things. Some Christians have been brainwashed by life to believe that Christians have the right to things, pleasures, and opinions. The church of Laodicea is described as blind to the fact of their spiritual poverty. They are counseled to buy eye ointment to cure their blindness. Some in congregations today need to get their spiritual eyesight back, and be able to see the difference between righteousness and sin.
Cain said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Many Christians today do not want to be bothered by the faults and hurts of other saints. Many do not want to spend time helping a troubled one. People can get so taken up with the committees, meetings, and activities of a congregation that they have no time to help the troubled. It takes tolerance to deal with the hurting. Too many shrink back and want someone else to do it. Some are too proud to deal with the troubled. Some in the congregations feel that the hurting saints are disgusting and pathetic. They are often like the priest and the Levite that passed by the man that the good Samaritan eventually helped.
CONGREGATIONS WHERE IRON SHARPENING HAS CEASED
In many congregations, the saints lie to cover their sins. They lie to themselves, and give their sins pretty names. They want to cover the guilt that the Holy Spirit wants to use to awaken them to the need of repentance. They end up with consciences that are seared and scarred. They present smiley fronts, and spiritual masks. This spiritual self-deception is the hardest nut to crack. The feeling of the need of iron sharpening exhortation is gone from these congregations. The minister speaks of sins of those not present. The congregation tries to keep itself to a group who think they are the epitome of righteousness. Any who are humble and repentant are shunned or shamed till they leave the building. The troubled, sin-struggling saint is encouraged to find another place to worship.