Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Receive a Rebuke

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. - Proverbs 15:31-32

Three weeks ago we looked at How to Confront Sin in our brothers and sisters. But what happens if you're on the other side of the table? How can we be humble people who are willing to receive a rebuke?

The Scripture are replete with exhortations to have a humble heart that listens to correction:
  • Psalm 141:5 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. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
  • Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
  • Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
  • Proverbs 10:17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
  • Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. 
  • Proverbs 13:18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
  • Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Honor and life and MORE wisdom come to those who are willing to receive rebuke and correction. Poverty, disgrace, and stupidity are waiting for those who will not listen. One of the most important character traits of a growing Christian is teachability. But let's be honest, receiving a rebuke is HARD. When a close friend says, "I have something I want to talk with you about..." we instinctively cringe and brace for impact. It's just so hard to be wrong! It feels exposing and shameful.

How can we cultivate a willingness to receive a rebuke? Here are some practical steps:
  • Read the Bible: Learn God's character and what He calls you to. Learn what His will is and how to be holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1-2). This will soften your heart, like a plow digging up the hard earth to be ready to receive the life of the seed. 
  • Pray: Pray for God to grow you, pray for humility, pray for a teachable heart, pray for hatred of your sin, pray for a listening ear, pray for brothers and sisters that will love you enough to rebuke you, pray for God to show you your sin and convict you. Also, Pray for Discipline.
  • Get Brothers: Surround yourself with godly mature brothers and sisters. Open your life to them. Live regular life together, basically: be deeply involved in a local church. If possible even get Christian roommates who can help you grow. We need Brothers in Arms to help us in the fight, and bring these life-giving rebukes to us. 
  • ASK people how you can grow: It's not just enough to HAVE brothers in our life, we need to make use of them! Ask if you've sinned against them. Ask them what they are seeing in your life. Invite correction. Pursue and invite rebuke from wise godly people who know you and know the Scripture. Develop a hungriness for it. One of the fastest ways to grow in sanctification and Christian maturity is to pray for God to show you your sin, and then ask some close brothers where you need to grow. And then listen to their answer and apply it! 

And when we receive the actual rebuke, how can we respond in that situation? 
  • Humbly listen: When someone rebukes you, LISTEN. Yeah they may get some things wrong, they may be misunderstanding you. But give them the benefit of the doubt. What can you hear and agree with? What are they saying that is true? How can you RECEIVE what they're saying with a humble and listening ear? Guard against your first response being defensiveness in arguing against their observation and challenge. Try to make the FIRST thing out of your mouth something like, "Thanks for sharing that with me, I'd like to grow."
  • Remember and BELIEVE the Gospel!: Hearing rebuke is HARD. But if we think we have to change all on our own power, rebuke is destructive and renders us so weighed down with guilt and heavy burdens that we are immobilized. Yes, you have sinned. But God's grace is for sinners! God in His grace has showed you an area to grow, but He provides the blood of His Son to cover and heal your disease. Use this rebuke as a fresh opportunity to remember the forgiveness that is yours in Christ, and rejoice that God is continuing to give LIFE to you. 
  • Apply and change: Listening to the rebuke and receiving it has more to do with our application than just merely HEARING out the person speaking to us. If we hear correction but don't actually CHANGE, we are like the foolish man who looks in the mirror and forgets what he looks like (James 1:22-25). Figure out what practical next steps of repentance you can be taking, and DO IT. Enlist the help of brothers for accountability if necessary. 

May God give you a humble heart to receive rebuke!
The Relentless Fight