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.

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.

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.