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.

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.

Don’t smother me, give me room to breathe

Christians are commanded to reach out to unbelievers and share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is a truth stated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew prior to His ascension into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 What I find interesting is that Jesus did not tell us how to do this, He just told us to do it.

In light of this, I have seen many Christians evangelize their faith by drowning their hearers in Scripture verses. I have also seen it done by debating with the hearer.  I have seen it done by critically passing judgment on the hearer because of their unbelief.  Very rarely have I seen evangelizing done by demonstrating love to the hearer.

An unbeliever needs to be allowed to disclose their many preconceptions concerning God, life, death, sin, etc.  They need time to explain their condition to you, otherwise, they will withdraw from the discussion and you will have lost a valuable opportunity to effectively witness to them about the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us a great example of a technique we should use when speaking with an unbeliever.

Acts 17:19-23 (NIV)

19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

 The Apostle Paul took time to study, observe and examine his audience in Athens.  Only when he was able to pinpoint a starting point for his dialogue with them did he present the gospel.  Because of this approach, he was able to hold their attention and “plant” the necessary seeds of the gospel message.  There is much we can learn from this approach.

When was the last time you took inventory of how you witness to an unbeliever?  Are you smothering them with information that is foreign to them?  Remember, the language of the Bible and many of the words you use are of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, it is a foreign language most of the time to an unbeliever.

Or are you finding that you pay no attention to the sinner’s worldview; how they think and reason.  Remember, you need to let the Holy Spirit show you where the “soft” spot is in the heart of the sinner you are trying to witness to – that is your entry for the gospel.

Another point of consideration is the outcome you expect when you witness.  Is it that the hearer immediately gives their life to Christ at the conclusion of your encounter or is it that you have successfully planted or watered a seed of faith in their heart?  Remember, it is only our duty to tell them of the good news; it is God who softens their hearts and leads them to Christ.

A Point to Ponder…

A born again believer in Jesus Christ is anyone who puts their faith totally in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.  It is someone who is said to have “entrusted” Jesus Christ with their entire life; to have committed themselves to Him because of what He has done for them and what He has promised them.

He has paid the penalty for their sinful nature by dying on the cross at Calvary which satisfied the righteous requirement of the law and as a result paved the way for all who believe in Him to be eternally forgiven of their sin and to be resurrected with Him unto eternal life with the Godhead at the end of the age.

This is the foundation of the Christian faith;  the rock of truth that every born again believer stands on with expectant hope.

Now, people don’t usually put their trust in something or someone who cannot deliver the “goods” so to speak; especially if it involves their very life.  If the person or thing falters on what was promised, they usually will disconnect themselves from them; move away from them; give up on them; or disown them, just to name of few of the possible responses.  They do this because they have lost “faith” in that person’s ability or the ability of the thing they relied on to deliver what was promised.

Though this behavior of giving up on someone or something for not fulfilling a promise is consistent with being human, it is not a behavior that is consistent with God.  Though people may fail to fulfill their promises to one another, God never fails to fulfill His promises to those who love Him and who receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord.

Ponder these verses of Scripture:

Numbers 23:19 (NIV):  God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?

2Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV):  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.

Why not then, consider giving your life to the One who can save you from eternal damnation.  To the One who promises and always fulfills His promises. To the One who did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself.  To the One who promises you an eternal life, free of sin and corruption and defilement.  An eternal life of fellowship with the One who created you and loved you to the point of dying for you so you could be reconciled and made holy.

In the climate of today’s relativism, it behooves you to ponder this thought; this piece of truth that can bring you to hope with an expectant joy that the world cannot give you, or promise you.

Give your life to Jesus Christ, the only one who can save you from eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire and eternal separation from the one who loved you enough to die for you…

If you want to learn more about salvation, go to this link: “What Is Salvation” 

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.

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.