I’ve seen a terrible thing happening in the Church today; men and women can no longer be rebuked. Neither the donkeys on the road, the preachers on the streets, nor dear brothers and sisters in the Church have a voice that is heard in our ear today. Somehow, someway, we have come to a point where we would rather cut off communication with a brother than hear their rebuke. Why do we so prefer to look for “spiritual self-justification” to seeking peace with our brothers in lowliness of mind?
This is a terrible tragedy, a frightful woe and a catastrophic affliction! No worse affliction can befall a soul than the curse of a hard heart that will not receive rebuke!
May God have mercy on us all! Amen!
Brethren, let us be hasty and check our own hearts lest there be any refusal to hear rebuke! Even if all around us, even our nearest brethren, refuse to acknowledge correction, let us have the mind of Christ and humble ourselves willingly that we might receive the end reward of God’s discipline!
Acts 7:51-53 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
How dangerous it is to believe that because we have received the Word of God, that we have therefore kept it in a pleasing manner before Him! Having heard His command, do we obey? We do not experience the reality of scripture because we hear with dead faith that does not produce obedience!
Truly I am at a loss for words to express how surprised I am that God’s ministers face isolation, disfellowship, and spite from the body if they deliver His rebukes.
The scripture tells us that God will give His grace that we may be “strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, for all patience and perseverance with joy” (Colossians 1:11), yet where is this patience and perseverance with joy in the Church today between the brethren when disagreements arise?
May God have mercy on us all, amen!
Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus instructs us to leave the altar and be reconciled to our brethren if we remember that they have something against us.
However, if we severe fellowship with our brethren (except for Biblical reasons that have been given to us in God’s wisdom for our good) and refuse to ear with one another with long-suffering steadfastness for the purpose of seeking reconciliation and life, then we annul the altar of God and defile our offering!
This is what I am most troubled by in the body right now: I see such a willingness in the brethren to cut communication and go separate ways rather than resolve matters! I can only diagnose this as the epitome of pride and kneel before God in reverence and fear to beg my Father in Heaven for forgiveness and ask that He would not allow such a fate to befall me!
We may not agree with our brothers on every matter, but the solution is not to divide, neither is it to “agree to disagree”. The solution is to persevere in our pursuit of unity with love, seeking to be perfected together in the mind of Christ, always being quick to listen and bear with one another in love. Matters do not have to be resolved over night, but we cannot offer our gifts to God upon the altar before God having not made every effort to be reconciled to our brothers!
Psalms 95:8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.”
Hebrews 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
The anguish in our Father’s heart revealed here should be sufficient to drive us with all patience and long-suffering back together for unity!
I do not read this with the tone of a heartless judge, stamping down the gavel demanding that we not harden our hearts, though He certainly could make such a demand, rather, I read this with the tone of our perfect heavenly Father beseeching His children not to harden their hearts! With wisdom, knowing the end of such things, being fully aware of the righteous and just judgment that is surely to come, God is pleading with His people not to harden their hearts in the deceitfulness of sin!
2nd Chronicles 36:15-16 “And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”
And it is precisely because of the deceitfulness of sin that God sends His messengers to us early to warn of our sins.
Will we listen?
I have the earnest brotherly concern for my fellow ministers in this regard; I believe it is hardest for ministers in today’s world to receive rebukes because they receive so many unrighteous rebukes! The flood of rebukes from people of darkened understanding whom Satan works in to counter the works of God is astonishing.
But, to my fellow ministers who struggle with this difficulty, let me offer the following word of support: Satan’s meddling that brings unrighteous rebukes to you always seeks to hinder your faithfulness to God, His will, and His word. Such rebukes will attempt to hinder you from going where God has sent you, talking to someone that He is sending you to, or from submitting yourself to the will and work of God in your life. You may receive rebuke for preaching the Truth, for uprooting your family and going where God has sent you, or even for rebuking a brother that is sinning. But unrighteous rebukes will not oppose sin or unworthy conduct in your life.
The reason why this can be so hard, my fellow ministers, is because there are times when we are seeking to be faithful to God in some work of His and our conduct begins to become unworthy of Him (see Eph 3:17- 4:3; Phil 1:27, 2:14-16; Col 3:12:17); then, because our intent is to follow God, but our actions have become unworthy of His calling, it can be very hard to distinguish between rebuke that God sends against our (sometimes unseen) conduct and an unrighteous rebuke of Satan that tries to discourage us from sincere obedience to God.
Indeed, I remember such times in my life when Satan sent many people to rebuke me for following God, and it made it very difficult for me to hear the one person that God send to correct my behavior.
May God grant us all mercy, wisdom, and discernment for such matters, amen!
Proverbs 1:24-33 “Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”
Whether God chooses to speak to us by the Holy Spirit, in a dream, through the Word, or through a brother or sister that He sends our way, we must always be diligent that our hearts not become hardened and unapproachable.
Indeed, I see dearly beloved brothers who once confided such struggles of unapproachableness that have yielded considerable ground to the enemy in becoming unteachable.
The consequences of fully hardening our hearts against the rebuke of the Lord are complete. For the work of God is to remove our hearts of stone and give us a living heart (Ezekiel 36:26ff), yet, we must be careful lest we deceive ourselves into thinking that because the Word says this it is therefore perfectly true of us; we can harden our own hearts against God, otherwise He would not have told us not to, and it is possible to resist Him and turn away, even to the point described in Hebrews 6:4-6.
Beware slapping the right hand of God away!
May God have abundant mercy on us all, amen!
A TRAP & A SNARE
I’ve touched on this briefly already, but I find my heart wanting to expose this matter further.
Satan has laid a very successful snare for us; the snare causes us to create “spiritual self-justifications” by which we can reject the rebukes God sends our way. Israel rejected Jesus with such “justification”. They even searched the scriptures diligently (John 5:39), but produced only the more convincing lies by which they rejected the chief cornerstone!
This happens when first we hear the rebuke and then begin to stew. We gather hearsay from others and then turn the most critical eye against the one that God sent to warn us. Sometimes we even begin to manipulate those who are closest to us to try and obtain a good report from them to nullify the counsel God sent to us in compassion for our own good!
Yet, even if all the things our critical eye finds are true, it does not necessarily negate the rebuke that has been given to us. Like the prophet rebuked by a donkey, will we turn our eye against God’s messenger and say “behold, he is just an ass! I will not listen to him/her!”
We’re not called to humility only when we’re wrong, brethren, but even “he who thinks himself to be wise and understanding, let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
I remember the testimony of John Wesley, an amazing man, who recounts his missionary trip to the Colony’s where he rigorously preached but was rejected. He was rebuked for being harsh and unloving. Those who heard him recounted how they did not disagree with what he was saying, but with his heart. Wesley reflected on these rebukes and, later, they led to a change in him that was prerequisite of all the many great labors he would later accomplish.
In the end, we must never close the door to reconciliation. I hope we can all determine within our innermost heart to persevere in the bond of unity; even when individual matters may take time to be fully resolved, let us make haste to resolve our hearts with love towards one another, proving the heavenly wisdom that speaks thus, “do not let the sun go down upon your anger”.
To my brothers who are leaders in the Church, remember that the Lord instructs us not to “lord it over” our flocks, nor to be “self-willed”, but that we must always be gentle in every manner. Oh how desperately does the Church need men who are grounded in the truth with the wisdom of meekness and humility!
Resist the temptation to make a show of your authority by laying down commands and demands, always insisting on your own way. This surely has the appearance of power, but it denies godliness entirely!
Brethren, I believe the Church has great need of two things: humility and holiness. We are frayed at every corner because we lack these two virtues. Our growth in knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love all rest on the foundation of “faith and virtue” (2nd Peter 1:5-7)! With such wisdom, let “the fruits of righteousness be sown in peace by those who make peace”, and let the grace of God give the harvest!
May you all be blessed with the abundant forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who cried out on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and may this mercy be rich within us all, amen!