I didn’t want to really hear it, but now I’ve seen that to serve God properly, I can’t avoid it. Paul says: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). I ask myself, “Why couldn’t he have said: “Love, pastor, be nice, be gentle.” Those are good things, but here it says “reprove, rebuke and exhort.” Well, they have to be good things too. No one really likes reproof or rebuking, and exhortation to do better isn’t that popular either. But, admittedly, we all need it.
To “reprove” in this verse is translated from a Greek word meaning “to convict, to expose, to call to account, show one his fault” and “to demand an explanation.” “Rebuke” is “to award, in the sense of merited penalty, to charge sharply, to restrain or forbid.” And to “exhort” is translated from the Greek word “parakaleo,” which means to call to the side, to console, to beseech, beg, entreat, to invoke, encourage, strengthen, instruct and teach.”
So what Paul is telling Timothy is that, as a leader, he needs to call people out on their sins, make them own up to them, and then beg them and encourage them to change, letting them know that he totally believes they CAN do it!
Paul was a great example of this and we see many examples in the epistles of him reproving, rebuking and correcting. And good parents are well practiced in this task, as well.
But as we get older, we not only get tired of correcting others and figure someone else will do it, but we also get lazy in our own lives and start letting things slip without correcting ourselves. We have to stop doing that.
Second Corinthians 5:20 says: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.” As representatives for Christ, we can’t afford to get lazy. We should be the examples of holiness, virtue, honesty, integrity, kindness and all the good things the Bible says about how we should and can be living.
John 8:44 tells us the devil is the father of lies, so he loves it when he can get Christians to compromise on truth, even in the smallest ways. He is quick to shell out excuses and justifications for doing things that are unholy.
I had a male friend, Jacob, who had the saddest, most honest-sounding story of his and his wife’s relationship. He bemoaned that she never wanted to have sex and only conceded because she wanted children. But after their three children, she was finished having any physical relationship with him. He said he still loved her, but he was a man with physical needs as well. He was very up front with his situation and I almost felt sorry for him. But when I heard that he used this same story with every single woman he met, I realized this was his “come hither” story—well rehearsed and it actually worked on at least two women that I knew of. Jacob had a convincingly compelling story, but his answer wasn’t God’s answer.
Every Christian can come up with a good story for committing what the Bible calls sin—stealing, little white lies, adultery, false accusations, murder, covetousness, you name it. But one excuse leads to another and it becomes like a leaky roof. If you don’t fix the small leak, the rain comes and all of a sudden that small leak isn’t small anymore and you have a big mess.
We need to fix the leaks.
In the USA, schools used to have a poster of the 10 Commandments on the wall. The kids knew what they were. They knew that it was good to obey your parents and bad to steal and they learned what it meant to covet. As I was thinking about this, I tried to write down what the Ten Commandments were. I only got 6 of them! I didn’t even know exactly where they were in the Old Testament and had to look it up. That’s not good.
They’re in Exodus 20:1-16 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21 if you want to look at them.
1.You shall have no other gods before Me.
2.You shall not make idols.
3.You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4.Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5.Honor your father and your mother.
6.You shall not murder.
7.You shall not commit adultery.
8.You shall not steal.
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10.You shall not covet.
People say that all the Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ and that love is a greater law than what they had in the Old Testament times, and that’s true. They quote Galatians 5:14: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But if we don’t know what the old laws are, that love is supposed to be covering, then we really won’t know what that love includes. That’s why the New Testament apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. had to write things like, “lie not one to another,” etc., to remind us of the details God wants us to get right in showing His true meaning of love. It’s a sacrifice of self, yes. It’s admitting and owning up to our wrong actions and wrong thinking and disciplining ourselves to change.
But when are we most willing and even happy to do these things? We should be willing all the time, but . . .
It’s when we know we are loved unconditionally and uncondemned—when we really trust that reproof, rebuke and exhortation is coming from a heart of love. We’re much more willing to take reproof when we know that God’s love for us is unconditional all forgiving and He will never give up on us, but only see us as ever growing better and more precious and more pure.
Matthew 5:8 says: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” A genuine metal is purified by fire and water. The fire burns away the impurities and the water washes away all that’s left. Let’s let the fire of God purify us and the water of the Word wash us clean.
We know that we aren’t going to get everything right, but we know that we can do better. If we ask, the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God Himself will rush to our help. We can expect it, lean into it and enjoy the result.
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