Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Should You Correct Others?

"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won't be tempted."  (Gal.6:1)

If you have children, you have spent or will spend a great deal of your life correcting them. Don't put the needle nose plyers in the electrical plug. Don't play in the street. Don't color on the wall. Don't stay out past midnight. It's what you do to raise kids. As they grow older, you also learn to pick your battles. I'm learning how to do that since both of my children are now young adults. I may still say, "don't", but mostly it's from a coaching perspective. It's a hard, but necessary transition.

If you follow Christ, your desire is to be part of His Great Mission to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you." (Matt.28:19-20a)  You are not just called to preach the good news of salvation, but also the good news of His Way and His Life.

The Gospel isn't just how to be saved, but how to live saved. We must be taught the Gospel to be saved, and we must also be taught the Gospel to live saved. (2Tim.2:10-17) If we are to live renewed lives, we must have renewed minds. Our minds are renewed by God as the Holy Spirit works through His Word. His Word is available through the Bible, and is applied through the Body of Christ. We are iron sharpening iron. (Pr.27:17)  We are not parenting one another. We are to be sharpening one another. That sometimes requires correction, sometimes rescuing from wrongdoing. There's far too much in the Bible about this to put in a short article, but I want to give you some basic guidelines using Galatians 6:1.

Brother - If you love the truth, and care enough to correct, you're probably committed to the truth of God's Word. You see someone caught in a violation of His Word. Don't let your zeal for the truth turn them into an enemy of the truth.

Wrongdoing - Make sure you're correcting a clear violation of God's Words and Ways. A person may irritate you, but that may not be grounds for correction. It's not about your preference, but God's.

Restoration - The goal is to restore the person to a walk with the Lord. It's not to dominate them and make them like you. That was the sin of the Pharisees.

Gentle Spirit - Get over yourself first. You have to spend time in prayer, with the Word, and with the Lord before you begin this process. You must be spiritual = filled with, controlled by, and manifesting the Holy Spirit. 

Humble Yourself - Someone told me that they could never do this, because they just weren't spirit-filled enough. That's not humility and that's not an excuse. If you're not qualified to restore a brother caught in a wrongdoing, get with God and get qualified. "Watching out for yourself" isn't an option, and not something we do just before we go try to rescue someone. It's something we must always do. This is too important. The body of Christ is too important. The mission is too important.

Pray, Abide In The Word, Love The Brethren - None of the above will be done unless these three things are your regular practice.

What would church be like if we expected this, that our brothers and sisters would love us enough to come alongside us and rescue us when we were caught in a wrongdoing? What would it be like if we were committed to the mission to proclaim His Gospel, be taught His Ways, and to obey them? What if obedience to Christ was the goal of our life and our churches? What if we were so committed to the glory and honor of God that we loved the brethren with a holy love that would not let us rest while they walked in sin?

No. No one is perfect, but One. We are called to follow that One, to become like that One and to do that together. May God give us the grace and humility to be corrected and to correct, to be rescued and to rescue. May we fear God and not man, for only then will man see and hear the Gospel that saves.

(Part three of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who Has The Right To Correct You?

Does anyone have the right to correct you? I'm not talking about correcting your spelling. I'm talking about correcting your life. Like a Russian nesting doll, there are questions within this question.

First, Have you given anyone permission to correct you? We throw around the term accountability a lot. We have accountability partners. We ask people to hold us accountable, but what is that? If you intend to be a faithful follower of Christ, you must be accountable. Mutual accountability is the result of mutual submission, and we are commanded to be "submitting to one another in the fear of Christ." (Eph.5:21)  To do that, you must choose to allow others to correct you. So, have you?

Second, Who has the right to correct you? If you seriously ask this question, you may have revealed a lack of spiritual maturity in your own life. See, one of the most popular answers to that question is "You have no right to say anything to me, because you, too, are a sinner."  The mature believer has made the decision to allow others to correct him or her. So, if you are humble, you don't care who helps you live a godly life. Even if someone points out your sin maliciously, and that hurts, you decide not to care. You're humble. You've sinned. You hate your sin because you love Jesus, and are thankful that someone jarred you out of your spiritual slumber by confronting your sin. It's just nice when they do it the way the Lord instructed.

There is a passage that teaches the requirements for those who correct others. The question is, are those requirements 1) an evaluation form that we use before we listen to someone who corrects us, or 2) a goal that we should all grow toward. Let's look at what Paul writes about this and break it down.

"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also."  (Gal.6:1)

Brothers - the redeemed of Christ who love one another
caught - someone suddenly caught up in sin
spiritual - manifesting the fruit of the Spirit as opposed to the legalist
restore - to put back into place, like a limb that was out of socket
gentle spirit - meekness, kind
watching out for yourselves - humble

So, does this mean that I should only allow fellow Christians, who have the right attitude and are watching out for themselves to rescue me when I have stumbled into sin?  Of course not. If my goal is to be like Christ, then I should welcome every opportunity to be made aware of any way in which I am not following Christ. Don't shoot the messenger, even if he or she has an attitude.

I believe the instruction in this verse is to the corrector, not the corrected. It's not an evaluation I use to judge someone before they rescue me from the trap. It is a guide to encourage me to be a humble spirit-filled follower of Christ so that when I see a brother or sister caught in a trap, I can, with gentleness and kindness, speak the truth in love and help them out of the trap for the glory of God and the health of the body of Christ.

Who has the right to correct you? Well, if you're a faithful follower of Christ whose desire is to be Christlike, then it really doesn't matter who speaks the truth to you. It's incredibly helpful when our correctors do it the way God's Word teaches, but it's not required. If our goal is to be like Christ, then our goal is not to be pampered. If you want a holy heart and a holy life, you will develop a thick skin. If our goal is to be like Christ, we also make it our goal to be filled with the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit so that when we speak the truth it is with the humble love of Christ. 

(The second of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")

Monday, July 18, 2016

When Someone Points Out Your Sin

One Christian angrily said to another, "My sin is not your business. You're just as much a sinner as I am."  If someone corrects your sin, and you respond by defensively pointing out that they are sinners, too, it was probably a good thing they pointed out your sin. Granted, some of us are fault finders, but few of us really enjoy correcting someone else who is walking in sin. For most, the only thing less enjoyable than being corrected, is having to correct.

Yet we have to correct brothers and sisters in Christ who are wrong or who are living wrong. That last statement goes counter to this "live and let live" generation in which the greatest sin of the day is to think another person is a sinner, but God says we must correct those who are walking in sin.  Faithful followers of Jesus recognize they are sinners, but they also recognize sin. And, they love God, His truth, and their Christian brothers and sisters enough to speak the truth in love. We are people who are saved by the truth, grow in the truth, and love because of the truth.  So, we love enough to correct when the truth says something is wrong. Here's just some of what God says about it. 

"Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also." (Gal.6:1)

"Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme." (1Tim.1:19-20 - concerning those who have rejected the truth of the faith)

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, for every good work." (2Tim.3:16-17)

"My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James5:19-20)

So, what's your reaction when someone points out your sin?

(The first of a three-part series entitled, "Christian Correction")

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Race Wars, Cops, And Christians

I don't know how to solve the current issues between different ethnic groups, good and bad cops, etc., and I'm not even sure to what extent God expects His children to "fix" these problems. I do know, however, that we who follow Christ are supposed to "obey all" that He has commanded. By the grace of God we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that means that no matter what happens around us, we follow the commands of our king.  And, He has many that, if the followers of Jesus would follow, would seriously change the climate of our nation.  So, here are a few things we are to do.

Respect And Submit To Authorities - Romans 13, 1 Peter 2
So, when a policeman pulls you over, you do what he or she says. Respecting also means honoring. Yeah, ok, there are some bad cops just like there are some bad preachers, bad teachers, bad bankers, and bad politicians. But, there are so many good ones. Respecting means honoring. What are you doing to honor and respect the good cops?

Pray For Those In Authority - 1 Timothy 2
Praying for those in authority doesn't mean a Christian can't hold those in authority responsible for their actions, but it does mean we are to pray for the good of those who are in authority. Prayer is commanded. Voting and holding people accountable is secondary.  Are you praying?

Do Not Abuse Authority - Matthew 20
If you're a parent, a teacher, a pastor, or a cop, if you're a Christian, God holds you accountable for the abuse of your power. Authority is given to prevent abuse. What are you doing to prevent abuse?

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself - Matthew 22, Mark 12
It doesn't matter what religion, color of skin, sexual orientation (yes, sexual orientation), or which flag he or she flies, you are to love them as yourself. No, it's not condoning sin, it's loving the sinner. That's the way Jesus loves you, and you are seriously not like Him. What are you doing to love?

Love Your Enemy - Matthew 5
It's human to love your friends. It's Christian to love your enemies. What are you doing to love your enemy?

Do Not Hate Your Enemy Or Murder - Matthew 5, 1 John 2-3
You have to forgive, because you've been forgiven. Reestablishing trust is another thing, but you must forgive. If you don't, you hate and hate is just a short step away from murder. Who do you need to forgive?

Do Not Treat People Differently Who Are Ethnically Different - Galatians 3
The Kingdom of God is the most ethnically diverse society that has ever existed, because the people in the Kingdom are from every tribe and nation. Don't treat people different because they have different colored skin or come from a different country. If they're in Christ, they're your family. If they're not in Christ, they are your mission field. This would certainly mean that a Christian should never disparage another because of the pigmentation of their skin. Do you treat people of different ethnicity differently? What are you doing to change that?

Take Action To Seek Justice - Matthew 25, Mark 9, Luke 4
Again, I'm not sure how far we are to go to fix society, but we are to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cloth the naked, care for the widow and orphan. Certainly we should add our voice and our actions to protect lives, whatever the color of their skin. How are you acting to seek justice and act mercifully? What are you doing to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus?

Preach The Gospel To Everyone - Romans 1
The only thing that changes anything is a changed heart. That's what the Gospel does. It changes the very heart of the person. Are you sharing the Gospel?

If we who follow Christ were doing just these things, things would be significantly different.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

When Your Bucket Is Full

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31 - ESV)

There are times when we just can't take anymore. Life builds up and then the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" happens, and we spill out. Sometimes we spill out by ourselves. Sometimes we spill out on everyone else. 

We're all built to different tolerances. I think it is by design that women have babies and not men. I'm not saying that men have a lower pain tolerance than women, but I do believe there would be no human race if men had babies. We would have died out long ago. Men may have had the first child, but I think none of my gender would have gone through that a second time. Some tolerate massive pain. Others cry at a paper cut. Some juggle a dozen tasks at a time, and some handle only one thing at a time. We're like different sized containers. Some of us are five gallon buckets and some are like tea cups. 

There are things we can do to increase our capacity. There are things, like reprioritizing, that we can do to keep our buckets from filling up. Yet there are times when a huge bucket and right priorities are not enough. There are times when the last cup of water that's poured in our bucket is the tipping point. In those times, only God will do.  So, what are we to do about it?

First, humble yourself. No one can handle it all. God does not say He will not give you more than you can handle. He says, "Even youths shall faint and be weary."  Pride will not help you carry more. It will help you spill more. Humble yourself daily by admitting to God, yourself, and another human being that life is more than you are capable of handling.

Second, seek the Lord. That's what "wait for the LORD" means. It doesn't mean paddle as fast as you can till He rescues you. Waiting upon the Lord means to seek him actively. Seek Him early and often. Fill up on His Word, worship Him early and often (magnifying Him puts problems in perspective), and get yourself into fellowship where you can be supported by His people. 

Third . . . well, there really is no third step. There are only two. Humble yourself, seek the Lord, and then He will renew your strength. He may not increase your capacity. He is your capacity. He may not decrease your load. Rather, He will strengthen you to bear up under it. He may even increase your effectiveness through it. He will renew your strength so that you "mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

If your bucket has tipped over lately, or if your bucket is just a tea cup, there's hope and help. The Lord your God.

(Wrote this to encourage a friend of mine who's going through a tough time right now, and to encourage myself to seek Him continually.)