“It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labour to give no offence and the other to labour to take none.” -Richard Sibbes
On Sunday, I did what I do every Sunday, I asked my wife, Brandon, for feedback on the sermon. The sermon from the book of Joel was on repentance. By way of application, I mentioned that church discipline is a grace that God has given which offers the frequent correction we all need leading us to repentance. At one point in the conversation, Brandon said; “it is always good to remind everyone of the importance of graciously receiving correction from our fellow church members when talking about church discipline.” Ah, yes!
If we are going to have a healthy environment of church discipline (discipleship), we must have a culture of grace. It takes grace to receive correction and not immediately become defensive. It also takes grace to offer correction, speaking the truth in love while clothed in humility. This is why I love the Sibbes quote above. Next week we will look at offering correction, but today let’s focus on receiving correction.
In his book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis writes:
….correction…is a great act of love. The kind of rebuke that the Scriptures commend is the kind intended to stop us from continuing on a destructive path. (pg. 185, emphasis original)
Mathis says each time correction is offered there is a “fork in the road” and we will either “cringe at correction like a curse” or receive it as a “blessing.” Why the temptation to resist? He says:
Deep down in the caverns of our remaining sin, where we can be most callous to true grace in its varied forms, we don’t want to hear correction. Something rebellious in us recoils. (pg. 188)
Yet, as we grow in the gospel and rest in our standing in Christ, we are more able to graciously receive correction. Look at how Mathis explains it:
It is another grace of the gospel that by the Spirit we can grow skin thick enough to hear any reproof as a pathway to yet even more grace. It is the gospel that gives us the wherewithal for truly leaning into rebuke and receiving its bounty. Only in Jesus can we find our identity not in being without fault, but in being shown love by God when we’re still sinners, chock-full of faults (Rom. 5:8). With such a Savior to steady our feet, we can embrace rebuke for the blessing that it is. (pgs. 188-9)
Did you catch that? Our identity is in Christ, “not in being without fault.” If you are basing your identity on “being without fault” (or indwelling sin), then you will become defensive when correction is offered. Yet, if your identity is in Christ, by whom you have graciously been saved and forgiven, and to whose image you are being formed through sanctification; then you will welcome correction as a blessing. To you, correction will be seen as God’s grace and kindness leading you to repentance and mortifying sin. Last, instead of becoming defensive and upset with the person offering loving correction, you will thank them for their kindness to you.
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” -Hebrews 3:13