The Gift of Rebuke

Few of us have ever thought of rebuke as a gift. We hate hearing that we are in the wrong. For many of us, our skin literally crawls as we boil with anger. The reason we hate to be rebuked is because we are so prideful. The fact of anyone, friend or foe, telling us we are wrong conflicts with the little wanna be king called ME we put on the thrown of our hearts. However, for the spiritually mature, rebuke is not an act of cruelty but of generosity. Rebuke from wise godly Christians is an incredible gift of God that he has given us. In Psalm 141:5 David tells us of the gift of rebuke when he writes,

Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; Let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; Let my head not refuse it.

You see in the eyes of David, the striking from a righteous man is a good thing. It is the ultimate demonstration of kindness. Yet so often we resist rebuke. The American virtue of self-autnomy resists this. In our minds there is no higher power or authority in our lives than ourselves. Rarely do we see rebuke as a kindness, rather we perceive it as judgemental, demeaning, an disresepctful. Yet this is not the Biblical understanding of rebuke. To be rebuked by the righteous is to receive a gift from God.

As David writes this Psalm, he knows rebuke is a gift to keep him from sin, yet he knows his heart will resist it when rebuke comes. Our puffed up heads resist the sweet annointing oil of God's favor. David prays to ask God to let him not resist rebuke in pride, but to receive it as a gift. Receiving rebuke from godly people in our lives is difficult, but something we must learn to receive with joy. There are times when a friend loves us enough to sit down and share with us hard truths. When that time comes we must be prepared to receive it as a gift. How do we do that?

Respond in Humility

Whatever is said, we must respond in humility. We understand that we don't have it all figured out. We are not following Jesus perfectly. We acknowledge that sin might be showing its ugly face in our lives even without our realization. When we hear rebuke, we must respond in humility knowing of our shortcommings and our desperate dependency on the grace of God.

Listen Reflectively

Whether friend or foe, when rebuke comes we must listen carefully to perceive the truth. This means we reflect on the words we hear. We ask ourselves reflective questions.

"Is this person speaking truth?" "Am I wrong in this area?" "Where do I need to repent?" "Is the Lord trying to get my attention?"

Thinking through questions like this will help you respond to rebuke as a gift.

Trust in the Righteousness of Christ

One of the reasons we struggle with receiving rebuke is because we are so geared up in a performance religion. We think being a Christians means moral perfectionism. We want to be self-sufficient in our own goodness. When rebuke comes the disillusionment of perfect person we imagine in the mirror shatters. When we are confronted in our sin or failures we must trust in the righteousness of Christ. Rather than trusting in our own goodness, we must trust in the goodness of Jesus. We fail. Jesus doesn't. When we face rebuke we must be restored in the confidence that comes from being clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Preparing your heart in these three ways will help you be ready when God brings a loving friend into your life to rebuke you. Respond in humility. Listen reflectively. Trust in the righteousness of Christ. Then like David, we will begin to see rebuke as a gracious gift of God to keep us from sin and protect us from our own idolatrous hearts. Then we will grow in maturity as the annointing oil of rebuke sanctifies and matures us in Christ Jesus.

Dating and Marriage Part 4: Some Practical Wisdom in Dating

Dating can be messy.  As Christians, we have learned that there are two viable states for a Christian, singleness or marriage.  What about those who exist in that awkward tension of singleness while looking for a spouse? To be honest, the Bible doesn't speak directly on how Christians should think about dating, but the Bible does indirectly speak to issues like dating.  The Bible is full of wisdom and it provides us with a worldview of how to examine and make decisions as a Christian.  As Christians, we are to be holy and set apart from the world as Jesus is.  This means that we need to think and date with a different focus than the rest of the world.  So the following is practical counsel from me to you as we think about dating relationships.  When it comes to dating, the tension isn't always between a right and wrong decision, but a wise and a foolish decision.  The following are things I advise to my students as a Youth Pastor that I've learned as I've studied the Bible and learned through experience, most of my experiences being my own failures and sins.

Maximize Your Singleness for God

We have talked extensively in a previous post about how singleness is an incredible gift.  Use your freedom to maximize your relationship with Christ.  Take the extra hours you have to study the Bible, spend nights in prayer, go on mission trips, and serving in the local church.  Don't sit around and cry over your loneliness, but use that extra time God has given you to make much of Jesus.  Besides, the best way to meet a nice Christian person to date is through the local church as you serve and work along side other single Christian people who are looking for a spouse, just like you!

Do Not Date a Non Christian

This one isn't just wise counsel, but commanded by the Scriptures.  Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"  As a Christian you have been born of the Spirit.  By God's grace He has saved you and made you pure because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross.  As a result, your beliefs, convictions, purpose, hopes, and dreams are going to be drastically different than someone who does not know Christ.  If the purpose of dating is to result in marriage, then why would you date someone who is going to hinder, rather than spur on your relationship with Christ? Do not fall for the lie of missionary dating, which is trying to date a non-Christian in hopes to convert them.  Most of the time it doesn't work and leads both parties into sin and heartbreak.  Hang out with lost people. Be friends with lost people, but do not open yourself to a person so that you are unequally yoked.

Do not Seriously Start Dating Someone until You are Ready for Marriage

This might be one many would disagree with me on, but I share it with you as some practical wisdom.  I suggest that you do not begin seriously dating someone until you are in that place in your life when you are ready to marry.  I say this because so many teenagers just end up in sexual sin in middle school and high school.  None of them are even thinking of marriage, they just want a pseudo marriage where they can treat some person like a fake spouse.  They get way too intimate, way too quickly, and way before they are ready for marriage.  They begin to connect on an emotional, physical, and a tragically sexual manner that when the inevitable break up happens it leaves both parties in utter chaos.

However is it realistic to begin dating young when we live in a couture that enters into marriage in their thirties? As Christians, I think we need to not be afraid to marry early.  If the bible teaches abstinence from sex before marriage and we are going to expect this from our young teenage and college followers of Jesus, is it realistic to abstain from sex until the age of 30?  So often we make our young Christians feel like it is a shameful thing to get married at the age of 20, 21, or 22.  In fact many older married people even discourage younger Christians from getting married young (It happened to me and my wife), most often because they themselves have terrible marriages and enviously long for their single life back.  We forget Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."  Many of our young christians are burning with sexual passion and rather than discouraging a young christian couple from marrying we should encourage it.  Instead of holding to the social faux pas we need to celebrate it.  For it is better for young Christians to enter into marriage than to burn in sexual passion and sin.

Don't find your identity in the person you are dating

As many people date, they create an idol out of the person they are dating.  In fact, many people begin finding their identity in that individual.  An unhealthy dependent relationship begins to develop.  Many people begin to want the intimacy of marriage in their relationship without the commitment.  However, as Christians we must be constantly on guard in case we begin finding our identity, hope, and satisfaction in anyone or anything other than Jesus.   Even in marriage, we must be careful of finding our hope in our spouse instead of Christ.  So many sinfully look for a romantic relationship to satisfy what is lacking in them.  However, in Christ we lack nothing, but have been given everything we need! No boy or girl will ever satisfy you, only Christ!  Guard your heart from idolatry as you date, and pay careful attention to your thoughts and emotions.  Keep the focus on Christ and in all things you do, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married; do all for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus!

The Foolishness of the Gospel

The Gospel, the good news of what Christ has accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, is the hope of the world.  Just like Paul, I can confidently say that I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.  Although the Gospel is the power of God and the hope for the world, the world doesn't understand it.  According to the wisdom of the world, the Gospel is utter foolishness. In 1 Corinthians 1:26ff, Paul tells us that God brought about salvation to the world in a way that seemed foolish to the world in order to shame those who claim to be wise. If we think according to the wisdom of the world, the Gospel really does seem so foolish. The Jewish people in Jesus' day were eagerly awaiting the coming of the promised Messiah.  They expected the Messiah to be a powerful King and a mighty warrior with military skill greater than David and riches greater than Solomon.  This Messiah was supposed to be the great warrior to lead a rebellion against the pagan and oppressive Roman Government. The Messiah was to be born in a palace, not a stable.  He was to be rich and wealthy, not homeless and poor.  He was to hang out with successful people, not with the sinners and tax collectors.  He was to ride into Jerusalem victoriously on a horse, not in peace on a donkey.  He was to wear a gold crown fit for a king, not a crown of thistles and thorns.  He was to rule and reign in power on his throne, not hang in defeat on a tree.

The ministry of Jesus was foolishness in the eyes of the world. Why wouldn't anyone want a suffering servant for a Messiah? God chose to do what was foolish in the eyes of the world to reveal the wisdom of God.  God brought victory over sin and death by letting Jesus be defeated and killed on the cross.  Life has come through death.  Success has come through failure. Victory has come through defeat. The cross was utter foolishness in every way in the eyes of the world.  Yet on the third day, he rose from the grave affirming the wisdom of God!

God brought salvation in this way to humble the proud, so that no one would be able to boast and say "I've figured it all out!".  Jesus was the Messiah no one expected. For those of us who are believers in Jesus and born of the Spirit, we see the wisdom of the Gospel. Those who are not in Christ think the Gospel is foolish. Now before you Christians start getting cocky and claiming that you are wiser than everyone else, you are missing Paul's point. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that the only reason anyone is able to see the wisdom of God in the Gospel is because of a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  The wisdom of the Gospel can only be discerned through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is by God's grace alone that he has revealed to you the beauty of Jesus. You didn't figure it out; God revealed it to you. Therefore, you have no room for boasting, but only drastic humility.

In the eyes of the world, the Gospel of Jesus is foolishness, but to those of us who have been born of the Spirit we see and know the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the Gospel. Therefore, in response let us seek to proclaim this good news to everyone and pray that God would reveal to our lost friends, neighbors, and co-workers the wisdom of the Gospel. As we tell them the good news, let us remember that it is a work of the Spirit, not our own wisdom or cunning who will bring our friends to Christ. Pray diligently and preach fervently.