The Challenge of Paradigm

The situation most people of faith find themselves entangled with is the paradigm of godly lifestyle vs. the paradigm of ungodly lifestyle. It is the age-old struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness, Almighty God and Satan.

The challenge to the person of faith is how not to conform to ungodly standards of morality by watering down or redefining what Almighty God says are His moral standards they ought to follow in living a godly lifestyle.

Know that the motivation of any person is key in their following any paradigm or model and in the case of a person of faith, the defining drive of their motivation is in their relationship with Almighty God.  This is because they have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Therefore, one must know the motivation of the person of faith is to live a godly lifestyle based on their reverence for God.

When the motivation of the person of faith to live a godly lifestyle begins to focus on the acceptance of their family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers etc., to participate in ungodly moral standards as they may be doing, and the person of faith does so, then there is a conformity to a different paradigm or model.  It is conformity to an ungodly paradigm.  A paradigm not of God.

People of faith must always ask themselves, what is the ungodly world telling them the components of a wholesome lifestyle are?  How have they defined wholesome?  Do the components they speak about line up with God’s components?  How much “alikeness” is there between them?  How have they defined moral values, integrity, virtue, truth, and righteousness?

People of faith should understand that their relationship with Almighty God is to be their primary relationship.  No other relationship is to trump that and therein lies the challenge for so many people of faith against the backdrop of this ungodly world.  How significant and/or important is having your relationship with Almighty God the most important relationship you have in your life?  This should be easy for a believer in Jesus Christ to understand, but for many, it is not.

Remember that participating in an ungodly life on this earth will blot out your sensitivity to God.  It will rob you of your quiet time with God.  It will steal your time put aside to meditate on God and His word.  Participating in an ungodly lifestyle will destroy both your quality of time and your quantity of time with the Lord.

So, take heed and pay attention to all the ungodly paradigms that surround you, and do not let yourself get enticed and dragged into them.  Ask the Lord to graciously keep you aware of those things that will erode the components of love, goodness, truth, and righteousness that undergird the morality of God.

The Mirror Of Rebuke

The blog message for today deals with something that all Christians find themselves struggling with at some point in their lives – confronting another person because of their actions toward you.

Usually, when people are confronted for something that they have done, they become indignant. They may say things like: “Who do you think you are?” or “Why are you coming up in my face with that?”

Well, listen to a response that you could give back to them.

“I’m in your face because I love you as a brother or sister in Christ and I want you to know the conduct you are demonstrating is not becoming of you.  You say you are a child of God, well, therefore, you should know better.”

”Stop using those curse words when you speak to me. Stop getting drunk every time you want to have some fun.  Stop trying to go to bed with every woman or man who comes your way.  Stop using people to get what you want.  Stop telling lies to cover up your mistakes.  Stop cheating on your wife or husband and stop abusing your kids and start being who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.”

Well, this type of confrontation is rare between people of faith.  We have come to a point where we think this kind of interaction is not Christian.

But let me remind you that confrontation is necessary for the life of a Christian. Without confrontation, spiritual growth and maturation will not happen in one’s life.

Confrontation defined is the state of being confronted.  As a face to face meeting; the clashing of forces or ideas or comparisons.

It is not defined as a negative or positive process.  It is just a process where ideas may clash, comparisons may clash, or opposing forces may clash.  It’s just a face to face meeting.

People have come to understand confrontation only from the outcome they take away from that face to face meeting.  Since many Christians do not like having someone tell them of their shortcomings or their faults or their idiosyncrasies, it’s difficult for them to see the process of confrontation as anything else but negative or not Christian.  Their reactions are usually defensive and counteracting.  Very rarely do they come away with edification or new insight into themselves.

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, you are mandated in Scripture to confront your brother or sister to facilitate spiritual growth and maturation when they’ve offended you.   So, be thankful that you find me up in your face.  I love you with the love of Christ and want you to grow to maturity.

In the Scriptures, the word “rebuke” is the biblical word used instead of “confront”.

When someone offends you according to Matthew 18:15, it is your responsibility to have a face to face meeting with them. A “rebuke” in other words.

Listen to the scriptural reasoning for the necessity of this rebuke:

15If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

You see, even though you have been offended by them, you are still responsible to go to them and show them their fault.  Something that is very difficult for many Christians to do.

But you go to them because you love them as a believer in Christ.  You go to them because you have faith in Christ that they will be convicted of their fault and confess their transgression.  And you go to them because it’s your duty in Christ.

We are told in Proverbs 28:23 (NIV) that:

23He who rebukes a man will, in the end, gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

Also in Proverbs 27:5 (NIV) we are told:

5Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Therefore, you do not rebuke them with your desire to avenge yourself, or your desire to get payback.  You rebuke them to win them over, to help them grow, to help restore the breach that they’ve made with you, and to show them the mercy of God.

Now there’s one last thing I want to add.  If you ever truly want to understand what it means to crucify your flesh, being offended is a good place to start.

Following an offense, your flesh will rise up and take over every emotion you have to justify itself or avenge itself.  Your flesh will present very convincing arguments to win you over to resentment, bitterness, anger, rage, etc. if you do not crucify it.

Since it is the proclivity of man to sin against his brother, it is then from the crucible of offense that you learn to be truly merciful to your offender.  You learn what it truly means to rely on your faith in Christ to crucify your flesh and to heal you from your hurt.

Wisdom NuggetIt is in the crucible of offense where you learn what the true meaning of forgiveness is.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual

“As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.”  I am sure you have heard this expression before if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  Somewhere during your Christian walk, someone has tried to help you gain the understanding of a natural circumstance you were involved in by relating it to a spiritual truth or perspective. Though you were able to follow their comparative analogy with your intellect, you may have had difficulty appreciating its truth with your spirit.  One reason for this difficulty could be that you are not familiar with the spiritual realm in which you exist; a condition I like to call spiritual illiteracy.

Consider this:  The past is what shapes us.  The way we have handled experiences in our past will dictate how we will perform in the present.  Another way of saying this is:  the past is experiential; the present is predictable because of our past, and the future is experientially unknown.

Therefore, salvation (being born again), is a present experience that presents problems to our comprehension because there are no past experiences in our memory banks that support its reality.

The same is true of our natural birthing process.  Once we come out of the birth canal we are in what you could call a “present” experience with no memory to support this new physical reality.  There isn’t one of us who has the memory of a womb experience.  We leave behind one realm of existence and enter into a new realm of existence.

And therein lies the parallel of the natural to the spiritual. The point being, you cannot live in the physical world using the dynamics you lived by in the womb; neither can you live in the spiritual world using the dynamics you lived by in the physical world.

Experiences in “new realms” bring “new experiences” as the order of the day with no past experiences to fall back onto.  The womb world has passed away, behold all things are new in the natural realm at the moment of birth, and the natural world has passed away, behold all things are new in the spiritual realm at the moment of conversion.

This parallel continues with the development of behaviors.  Parental and societal influences in a person’s life are the essential ingredients to the success of this process.

In the natural realm, a person’s behavioral habits are formed as a result of the interactions they experience with family and the society that surrounds them.  This is a development that begins at birth and continues throughout their formative years.  Likewise, the person who has been born-again forms spiritual behavioral habits through the interactions they have with other born-again believers.

Our natures undergird our proclivities.  Our proclivities give rise to our habits and our habits dictate our behaviors.

Here is an acronym:  H.A.B.I.T. = How All Behavior Is Taught.

Therefore, we can say that carnal behaviors and Christlike behaviors are taught.

Born again believers have a spiritual nature and a spiritual existence. Their essence is spiritual, that’s who they are.  They are not carnal in their nature.

Here is a critical observation…many to most believers are not able to identify with; make the connection with; acknowledge, or take confidence in their spiritual nature because they have no memory recall of that nature to fall back onto.  Their memory recall is only from their carnal existence and therefore they suffer conflict.  There are not enough accumulated spiritual experiences in their present life to draw upon.

Behavioral growth in the natural is dependent upon the influence of parents and the social environment that surrounds the baby.    The same is true with spiritual behavioral growth.  The spiritual parent of the believer is the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  The societal environment that surrounds the believer is the body of Christ (the church).

The born-again believer comes into the spiritual kingdom of God as the baby comes into the natural world;  innocent, immature, and undeveloped.  Both must go through a growth development that will mold their behaviors and attitudes.

As a child can be disobedient to the natural parent; so can the believer be disobedient to the Godhead.  As punishment follows disobedience in the natural; so does punishment follow in the spiritual.  As direction and guidance are given by the natural parent; so are direction and guidance given by the spiritual parent through the Word of God.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have come to the conclusion that one of the major hindrances undergirding Christian people who are struggling with issues of life is their ignorance of who they are spiritually.  They have not developed strong habits of spiritual behaviors. I have found that many “born again”, “saved”; “redeemed” persons do not understand they exist in a spiritual realm once they give their life to Jesus Christ.  This truth is foreign to their understanding.  Many believe that the only thing that happens to them when they give their life to Jesus Christ is that their “sins” have been forgiven and they have received the gift of eternal life.  Though this is true, they have no understanding of the “rebirth” they experienced.

Though many will tell me their lives have changed drastically, I have come to the conclusion that they are referencing only the tangible things in their physical lives.  They are blinded by all the tangible elements of the physical world; they are indoctrinated by all the philosophies of the physical world; they are motivated by all the aspirations of the physical world and they set life goals according to the paradigms of the physical world.  They have not learned that their spiritual realm of existence is a reality of their “present” state of existence, so their behaviors and attitudes remain immature and undeveloped.

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual is an expression of the truth that needs to be a reminder to us of the aspect of the world we live in but are not a part of.   A reminder that we are to concentrate our efforts on understanding the spiritual realm of existence we are a part of and not the carnal realm we came from.

And to always understand that the combined integrated influences we experience from our spiritual parents and the surrounding spiritual social environment we live in are what is needed for us to come to the fullness of behavioral growth and maturation in the Lord.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual.

Infidelity

This article is for married men and women who are ignorant of fidelity.  Now before you say to yourself “That’s not me…I’m not ignorant about fidelity”, be absolutely sure that you know what I’m speaking about before you stop reading any further.

Fidelity defined: faithfulness to a moral obligation, pledge, promise or vow.  It implies complete submission; complete entrusting; and complete allegiance to that which you have committed yourself to.  The key word in this definition is COMPLETE.

Therefore, can you say that you have been completely faithful in the fulfillment of your marital vows to your spouse since the day you said: “I Do”?  If you can say “Yes I have” then you can stop reading, but let me challenge you to consider one more thing before you do.  The word complete implies total; nothing lacking.  Can you say with assuredness that you have never fallen short in your words, thoughts or deeds concerning fidelity with your spouse?

Humm…I thought you couldn’t.  Let’s learn something then about the word fidelity and how we have many times missed the mark in our marital relationships by manifesting infidelity in ways we never thought we were.

By its definition, fidelity is not confined to marriage.  It is a condition that is applicable to any commitment.  Infidelity then would mean there was a breach in faithfulness concerning a promise, pledge, vow or moral obligation to someone that resulted in a violation of the commitment of fidelity between the parties involved.

So, when we use infidelity in the context of marriage, we must replace the misconception that the word implies only having sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage.  There is a much deeper significance we must come to understand.

It is easy for us to focus on issues of adultery, substance abuse, gambling, physical and verbal abuse as behaviors that undergird marital discourse.  These are like “bombs” that explode in our faces.  As a result, they are not hard to identify.  They are extremely devastating to any marital covenant.  But there is another “villain in the camp” that we pay very little attention to.  This villain is subtle and appears innocuous but brings a sense of anesthesia into relationships that cause a gradual state of emotional numbness to develop.  The villain’s name is Mr. Erosion, aka Mr. Drip/Drip/Drip.

You know how he works.  I’m sure you’ve seen him do his thing in nature.  He’s that constant drip of water that keeps striking in the same spot on the earth, and over time, erodes the soil it’s been pounding on to create a crevice that penetrates deep into the ground.  Can you recall seeing his works?

Well, did you know that he likes to abide in marital relationships also?  Instead of water, he uses things like impatience; unkindness; jealousy; envy; boastfulness; pridefulness; haughtiness; selfishness; rudeness; demanding one’s own way; irritability; or holding records of wrongs.

Through these areas, he develops insensitivities between husband and wife.  Each tries to initially co-exist with these insensitivities, but as time goes on in the marriage they find themselves emotionally distancing from each other.   One insensitivity leads into another and the intensity of the insensitivity grows; more distancing occurs until there becomes an emotional “crater” existing between them.  You begin hearing one of them say: “He doesn’t love me like he use to” or “She doesn’t show me respect anymore” or “We don’t seem to connect with each other anymore” or “We are always arguing over the little things”.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have encountered numerous marital cases that were byproducts of these emotional erosions.  The geography of the crater that these couples present in counseling is often times very deep, very jagged and very treacherous.  For the spouse who has fallen into that crater, negotiating the terrain back to the surface isn’t easy because of the extent of emotional numbness that exists.

Do you remember the vows you made to your spouse on your wedding day?   When was the last time you took an inventory of them?     The covenant of marriage is the most basic of relationships established by God.  He expects us to be virtuous in that covenant.  If you don’t remember what you vowed, how can you guard against Mr. Erosion?

What specifically did you vow to your spouse?  Was it to love and cherish and care for?   Was it to honor, obey and respect?  Was it to be there for your spouse in sickness and in health?  Was it to forsake all others?  Fidelity is the cornerstone of any relationship. Does it matter to you that God expects you to be virtuous in his covenant?

Let me give you a homework assignment that will complete your schooling on fidelity.  Meditate on the following scripture passage from the Living Bible, and then write a letter to your spouse relating what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you about your role in the marital covenant.

Ephesians 5: 21-27, 33 (TLB)

{21} Honor Christ by submitting to each other. {22} You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. {23} For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) {24} So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ. {25} And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, {26} to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; {27} so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. {33} So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband – obeying, praising, and honoring him.

Stop the erosion in your marriage.  Renew your wedding vows by restating them to each other.  Do it soon.  Do it this weekend.  Send the kids to a sitter and go for a weekend getaway.  Dress up.  Go to dinner.  Create an atmosphere of intimacy.  Speak life back into your marriage by vowing to each other that you will protect the fidelity of each vow.  Commit to edifying each other every day.  Commit to love and honor and respect your covenant of marriage.  Commit to letting infidelity be a thing of the past.

I pray that you were able to digest this and I pray that God gives you the courage and desire to revive the flame that was ignited between you and your spouse on the day you entered into His blessed covenant of marriage.

A devotional challenge – What Foundation Is Your House Built On?

Read this devotional message and then challenge yourself to follow what it’s asking you to do:

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24”Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Insights:      Jesus Christ is the one making this statement.  He presents a truth; an insight into an element of belief that is overlooked many times by believers or not fully understood.

That element is “acting on what you believe”

People make decisions every day in accordance with what they believe, and what they believe is a result of their own processes of acceptance or rejection of presented facts.  A person will assume a posture of a belief that will reflect their understanding of those presented facts as being either true or false.

What is significant for us to note is what does the person do with their beliefs? They can either act on them or not.  Just because someone has a belief in something does not mean they will act on that belief.  When they “act on” their belief it is because they put their trust and reliance on it.  When they “do not act on” their belief it is because their trust and reliance are lacking.

We are told in the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  We are also told in Psalm 119:160 (NIV) that all of God’s words are true and eternal.

Therefore, in verse 24 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls wise, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth and act on them out of trust and reliance.

In verse 26 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls foolish, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth but do not act on them because of a lack of trust and reliance.

Jesus is giving us insight into the dynamics of what our faith should be.  The truths of God’s words are what we are to trust and rely on.  If we do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating the trust we have in Him.  If we do not do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating a lack of trust in Him.

Jesus is telling us that only by having trust in Him and doing what He asks us to do will ensure that we will overcome the situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations that come upon us.  We can and will withstand these things because we are anchored on a “rock” foundation that is not moved by any situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation.

On the contrary, if someone has little trust in what Jesus says then they will find themselves not doing what He asks of them and when those situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations come upon them they will suffer great loss.

Application:      Examine yourself over the next thirty days to see how much trust and reliance you are putting in Jesus Christ in the various situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations you encounter.

Do the following:

  1. Write down what situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation you find yourself confronted with.
  2. Write out the options you have concerning your responses to these areas by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, label it “My Ideas” to solve the situation. On the other side, label it “Jesus’ Methods” to solve the situation.
  3. Use your Bible to locate various scriptures that speak to your situation. Write those scripture references on the side of your paper labeled “Jesus’ methods.”
  4. Compare your side to Jesus’ side and see what discrepancies exist between the way you would handle your situation and the way Jesus would.  If there are discrepancies you will have to ask yourself how much you believe that Jesus’ methods are true and better than yours. The proof of your faith will be evident with your decision to follow Jesus’ methods.
  5. Record how many times you were successful following your methods’ versus how many times you were successful following Jesus’ methods.

Prayer:        Lord, give me the desire to put into practice the truths of your Word concerning all of the situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations I find myself in.  Strengthen my faith through my obedience in fully trusting and relying on your Word so that I can experience your wisdom of standing in you as my “rock” of deliverance.  Change me, Lord.  Change my habits of reliance on myself so that I can bring glory and honor to you in the way I respond to life’s challenges.

It is in Jesus name I pray.   Amen.

Is what you see, what you get?

Jesus tells us of an account he had with a fig tree when he was hungry.  It can be found in Mark 11:12-14 (NLT):

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus felt hungry.  He noticed a fig tree a little way off that was in full leaf, so he went over to see if he could find any figs on it.  But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit.  Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”  And the disciples heard him say it.

Jesus expected to find figs on the tree to satisfy His hunger because the tree advertised it was carrying figs evidenced by its foliage, but when Jesus didn’t find figs, he cursed the tree.  What Jesus expected to find, he didn’t.

When people look at you, a professing born-again believer in Jesus Christ, what do they see?  Do they see the evidence of your union with the Holy Spirit or do they see your association with the world?

The fruit of your foliage is supposed to be the fruit of the Spirit:

(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)

Is that what people see when they examine you?

Be who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.  Let the phrases: it is, what it is or what you see, is what you get be true of you.

Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)

Nouthetic Confrontation

For some reason, it appears as though many Christians do not believe they can speak out against sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors they see manifest in other Christian’s lives.  Well, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.

You see, desensitization to the Word of God is a dangerous thing.  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines desensitization in this way:  to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically to extinguish an emotional response to stimuli that formerly induced it.  (Such as fear, anxiety, or guilt)

Now in the context of a brother or sister in Christ sinning, it is the emotional response of guilt that makes them aware of their offenses and transgressions against God and/or their neighbor.  Without guilt, a person has no ability to experience remorse, regret, or sorrow over what they have done.

Now we know that man is not perfect.  Man will always make mistakes.  Man will always fall short of God’s moral standards, so it is critical then, that man remains conscious of his shortcomings.  It is critical that man has a heart, a mind and a will to correct those shortcomings and minimize their occurrences in his life.  Desensitization to guilt prevents this from happening.

Scripture mandates every Christian to confront one another through a process of confrontation called Nouthesia.  It is a Greek noun.  It is defined in the lexical dictionary as “an admonition, a warning, or an exhortation.   Any word of encouragement or reproof which leads to correct behavior.”

Now the Bible is our utility tool, our manual, our guide for providing Nouthetic guidance because it is God’s Word of moral instruction to us as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives in the body of Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us:  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

God has given us a moral compass to use in our daily interactions with each other.  The Holy Bible. Therefore, by it, we can have accountability to one another so that we can be a “facilitory agent” in each other’s lives for spiritual growth and maturation.  Our responsibility to ourselves and to others is to live by God’s moral compass.

However, many born-again believers are failing and even running away from fulfilling this responsibility.  Instead of spiritual growth and maturation, there is spiritual retardation and adolescence as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives, because of the failure to execute nouthetic confrontation in the lives of those who demonstrate wayward actions.  They are not held accountable to the Word of God.  No one warns or admonishes them by the Word of God and consequently, they remain outside the will of God; living defeated lives with an immature faith.

Let me take a moment and show you how accountability will facilitate obedience.

If I find myself doing something that is not in accord with God’s standard, then you would be correct in saying that I am off center or missing the mark.  Now the longer I remain there, the more rooted I will become there and the more distant I will remain from God’s moral expectation of my life.

If no one confronts me for being off the mark or holds me accountable for my wayward conduct, then I will continue to be disobedient to God’s morality and will remain off center. Something has to motivate me to move back in line.  Something has to awaken my sense of guilt for being off the mark. That something is nouthetic confrontation from another brother or sister in Christ.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”.

The lexical definition of “sharpens” in this text of scripture means to make something stronger or to improve. Therefore, to state this proverb using this definition would sound like this:  “As iron strengthens and improves iron, so one man strengthens and improves another.” This is through the process of Nouthetic confrontation.

Knowing this, tell me why so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ are not confronting one another?   What is the reason for tolerating ungodliness in another Christian’s life?  Well, I believe it has to do with one of two things: either apathy or fear.

If you find that you fall into the category of apathy, then I say this to you-you are sinning against the second command given by Jesus, which states we are to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

This love is agape love.  The love that esteems others, cherishes others, favors others, honors others, respects others, accepts others, prizes others, relishes others, is devoted to others, is loyal to others, and is concerned for others.  If you are apathetic toward your neighbor how can love them in this way?

If you find that you fall into the category of the fearful who are afraid of man’s possible repercussions from confrontation, which might involve verbal accosting, ostracism or even physical assault, then I say this to you-you are not trusting God for the veracity and wisdom of his word.  You are not trusting God for the truth of his instruction.  You do not have the conviction of:

Psalm 56:3, which states, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Psalm 56:4 which states, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”

Or

 Psalm 118:8, which states, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

You see, to confront is to love openly.  Not to confront is to be unloving.

Proverbs 27:5 tells us “better is open rebuke than hidden love.”

Therefore, it is time you started practicing your faith and demonstrating Christian love one to another from the perspective of obedience to the mandate in Scripture of nouthetically confronting your neighbor when you see sin abound in their lives.

Let me give you one last illustration of the how the Lord expects us to love one another through nouthetic confrontation.

In the world when someone commits a crime, it is because they have done something outside the boundaries of the law. They become wanted criminals and walk around ever mindful the police are looking for them.

One day they are spotted by the police and stopped.  The officer has grounds to search them and does so by “frisking” them down to see if there are any illegal items they might be carrying on their person.  If the officer finds something, he takes it away – he confiscates it.  It is no longer in the possession of the person.

Well in the kingdom of God, we are mandated to do to each other what the police officer did to the criminal suspect.  We have been given legal grounds to “frisk” one another down.  We have been given legal grounds to use the Word of God to search for any ungodliness in the lives of one another when they have committed sin.  When we see the ungodliness, we are to be a facilitory agent in the confiscation of it.

By that, I mean we are to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness through the use of God’s instructions as mandated in the Bible; to bring to light the ungodly contraband our brother or sister may be carrying in their lives.  We are to use the authority of the Word of God when we “frisk”.  Only using the truth of the Word of God will bring conviction, and only conviction will birth the awareness of guilt that will be the catalyst for change.

If we all can become proficient in utilizing the process of Nouthetic guidance one to another, we would see great strides made in the lives of every born-again believer as it pertains to their spiritual growth and maturation in the body of Christ.

The Battle Is More Real Than You Think

To forgive someone is an act of your will and a finished work of Christ in your heart.  Literally, it is releasing someone from the penalty of their offense against you.  Though they are guilty of the offense and rightly are indebted to you to meet the punishment connected with the offense, you make the decision from your heart to remit them from the debt.

Now, this all sounds simple, and with the grace of God working in you, it is, but many times we make it more complicated than it has to be because we fail to do what needs to be done to win the battle.

Consider this:  Before one can come to this point of resolve, one must overcome the battle that rages inside of themselves that follows an offense.  The battle is with their flesh; with their soulish realm, for the flesh wants payback, revenge, perverted justice and punishment to come upon the offender for what they did.

One must win the battle over their flesh in order to succeed in the area of forgiveness.

Understand, your flesh “talks” to you very convincingly about keeping alive your resentment and anger.  Even though you may plead the blood of Christ over your mind, thoughts, and emotions, your flesh perseveres to keep alive the perverted desires that come from your self-righteousness, and you can find yourself having a debate with your flesh about what you should and should not do to your offender even when you have made up your mind to forgive.

This debate can go on for days and even years at a time if you have not learned how to crucify your flesh.  And if you ever lose this debate you can find yourself sinning against God by not demonstrating the conduct of heart He commands of those who have been offended.

You see this battle is real and it happens in the mind.  Every one of us steps into this battle the moment we are offended or transgressed against.  No one escapes it, yet there are some who have learned to do what the Lord has commanded us to do with ungodly thoughts and desires.

We are told in 2Corinthians 10:5 that –

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. 

The Lord tells us to be mindful of those self-righteous arguments that we say to ourselves:

“They had no right doing that to me, I’ll get them for that”

or

“I’ll kill you for what you’ve done to me, I hate you”

These thoughts have to be arrested.  They must be brought under the obedience of Christ because they go against the knowledge of God.  That means we must rethink those thoughts and replace them.

We must capture each one and “make it” obedient unto Christ.

“I’ll get them for that” becomes “God will avenge me”.

“I hate you” becomes “I love you because you are my neighbor but I don’t like what you did”. 

If we are going to defeat this flesh we must have faith in the spiritual weaponry we possess.  We must trust in the power that Christ has over the devil to demolish our ungodly patterns of thought.

You see, the battle is won by not allowing the thoughts of revenge, payback, punishment, etc. to run wild inside of your thinking.  The battle is won when you capture every one of those thoughts and make them obedient to what Christ has told you to do toward your offender or your enemy or someone who persecutes you.

Christ will bring those thoughts into submission inside your heart once you have arrested them and you will then find victory over them.  So don’t get frustrated if you find yourself battling with thoughts of whether to forgive or not.

Just follow 2Corinthians 10:5 and watch the Lord fight for you.

An Admonition to the Biblical Counselor

The Lord in His Word is very specific in His admonition to the believer concerning the progressive societal decline that is to come.

2Timothy 3:1-5

But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power…

 2Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Anyone who has eyes and ears can testify to seeing this happening today in their own backyard and must agree that the fruit of this produces a societal culture of unorthodox lifestyles that are growing larger and larger and that contribute to the decline of biblical morals and values with each succeeding generation.

The biblical counselor is in the trenches with people who come to them as by-products of this societal degradation carrying problems, concerns, and crises that need attention; that need to be resolved but cannot because the societal solution only leads them deeper and deeper into degradation.  It is challenging therefore to the biblical counselor to transform the ungodly patterns of thought that pervade the hearts and minds of their counselee.

I therefore give the following admonition to the biblical counselor who is called to be a facilitory agent in the life of someone who needs guidance from God’s Word.

It is purposed to have the prospective counselor take inventory of his or her own motivation and intent of wanting to become a vessel of the Lord to be used in the arena of a counseling session.

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

I chose this statement because I want to convey to you a very important truth about counseling from a biblical perspective.  A truth that is only experienced by the counselor who is actively engaged on the proverbial battlefield of the counseling session.

Therefore, this truth is an experiential truth.  That means it is experienced or lived out; not studied in the classroom or in a lecture hall; but experienced or lived out in the mind of the person or persons the counselor is counseling.

You see, the counselor finds out very quickly that the counselee’s mind is a fortified bunker that protects and feeds into something of an eternal value that is deep inside the counselee.   The counselee’s heart.

The truth therefore, that I want you to come to know and understand is this:

The counselor must first strategically overcome this bunker in the mind of the counselee before any pursuit can be undertaken to destroy any stronghold found in the heart of the counselee.

You see, there is a direct link between the bunker and the heart. However, before any release of hostages is made in the heart of the counselee, the counselor, must first understand and embrace this truth, and then, overcome the bunker in the only method of engagement he has: that is head-to-head combat.

Notice I said head-to-head and not hand-to-hand.

I chose this metaphor because it graphically depicts the dynamics of the initial engagement you will have with a counselee’s presentation problem.

No, they do not come at you swinging their fists; they come at you swinging their intellectual arguments and intellectual persuasions; their justifications and rationalizations concerning their morals, beliefs, thoughts and conduct.

At your first introduction to the counselee, you will step onto a battlefield where you become directly engaged and entangled in the mind of someone whose is under the influence of an ungodly persuasion of the adversary.

Now do not be deceived by some erroneous thought about why people come for counseling; especially professing Christians.  Not everyone you see in session is eager to hear from God. Not everyone you see in session is eager to do what God instructs.  Many times the counselee’s arguments and persuasions are contrary to God’s, and submitting to God and His Word would be to go against the deeply rooted persuasions and arguments the adversary has planted in their hearts.

This is a known fact. If it were not true, there would be no need for them to seek out counseling.  They would not have to seek you out for help.  They would know to be obedient to the Holy Spirits’ leading in their life and would be malleable in allowing Him to transform them in their present circumstance, so you would not be needed.

However, you will discover that many who come into session are truly perverted in their theology, and in need of transformation due to their illiteracy of God’s Word or either their rebellion towards it.

So let me say to you again:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

As a vessel of the Lord, you will be tested and tried by the counselee. You will be stretched, pressed, and pushed by the counselee into a proverbial corner many times in your encounters until you overcome the resistance put up from counselee’s bunker.

You see, if the truth be told, every counselee has an opinion concerning their situation, and that opinion is fortified in that bunker.  For many, it is fortified and under girded by perverted morals and values that the adversary has deceived the counselee into believing are true.

And though you may not agree with their opinions, if not careful, those very opinions will strike you like flak from an artillery barrage and you may find yourself consequently expending an unexpected and unplanned amount of energy keeping your own flesh under subjection during the barrage than you would have ever imagined.

Therefore, let it be known that it is imperative for you, the counselor, to be prepared spiritually before you engage any counselee.

Well, what do you mean by that Elder?

I mean this: if you, the counselor, are not rooted, anchored, and committed to the Word of God, and willing to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, then you should not go into battle with any counselee. Do not be deceived.  The devil is more than a worthy opponent to the unstudied and uncommitted babe in Christ.

In order to survive any head-to-head encounter with the adversary, the counselor must be committed to letting the Holy Spirit work through them.  The counselor must not only have God’s Word inside of himself or herself, but they must be proficient in rightly dividing the Word of truth and speaking what God wants them to speak.

The counselor’s convictions, arguments, and persuasions must be the same as the Lord’s as it pertains to holiness, righteousness and purity.  The counselor must have a faith that is strong enough and rooted enough in the Lord Jesus Christ to allow themselves to be used at all cost in the battlefield of the counseling session.

Understand one thing.  Scripture reminds us that we do not struggle against flesh and blood.  That means we are not engaged or entangled in physical warfare.  Scripture tells us we struggle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  That means we are engaged and entangled in spiritual struggles against the adversary and his kingdom.

Therefore, the counselor must be prepared spiritually to do battle against the counselee’s bunker as the Lord directs and leads.

Again, I say:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

I leave you with this thought:

People will believe what they want to believe, not necessarily what they need to believe.

With that in mind, know that you will be on a journey with the Lord in moving from the counselee’s head or bunker, where you will battle the presentation and pattern of thinking levels, to entering his or her heart, where you will fight the final battle of the performance and preconditioning levels.

Be a weak vessel for the Lord that loses the battle of the bunker and you will never engage the adversary’s foothold in the counselee’s heart.

Remember and never forget that you are the conduit for the Holy Spirit. You are the vessel for the Lord.  You will be the mouthpiece for the Lord.  You will be His soldier on the battlefield of the counseling session.

Will you be prepared for the battle?  Will you be able to stand firm and strong for the Lord when you come up against the counselee’s bunker?  Will you be able to bring every thought that is contrary to the knowledge of God under subjection and make it obedient to Christ?  Do you have enough compassion for your counselee to persevere the hardships of the struggles you will have in overcoming the bunker as the Lord has?

I pray for the sake of the counselee that you are prepared.

I close in stating to you again:

Be prepared for the head-to-head combat of biblical counseling.

Now may the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.