Offering Correction

“The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others.” -Richard Sibbes

How to receive correction from others was the subject of the previous post. In this post, we will think about how to offer gracious correction to others. I will once again turn to David Mathis’ Habits of Grace as he offers 7 steps toward giving “correction that is truly Christian.” (pg. 189)

  1. Check Your Own Heart First

“First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” -Matthew 7:5

  1. Seek To Sympathize

“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” -Matthew 7:12

“Consider the manner in which you’d want to be approached with such an observation, and give extra effort to make sure it comes off as a word of brotherly correction, not condemnation.” (pgs. 190-1)

  1. Pray For Restoration

“…pray before confronting them…(pray) that you would give your word of correction with sufficient gospel preface, that they would receive your loving reproof, and this if they resist in the moment, God would soon soften their heart to the degree that your observation is true.” (pg. 191, emphasis mine)

“Pray and speak toward restoration, not merely righting wrongs and appeasing your own judicial sentiment.” (pg. 191)

  1. Be Quick

“Don’t let manifestly sinful patterns fester.” (pg. 191)

“The ideal is…that sin is regularly nipped in the bud rather than given time and space to grow into the tall nasty weed it will become.” (pg. 192)

  1. Be Kind

“What makes a corrective word to be truly Christian is not only explicit reminders of gospel truths, but also a tone and demeanor that matches our Master.” (pg. 192, emphasis mine)

  1. Be Clear And Specific

“Before approaching someone with a corrective word, get it clear in your own mind what you’re observing and how it may be harmful.” (pg. 193)

  1. Follow Up

“If they receive it well, follow up with a note or call or conversation, and commend that evidence of grace in their life. If they don’t respond well, follow up with some further expression of love for them, perhaps a reminder that you have nothing to gain but their good, that you’re happy to be wrong if the correction was pretty subjective, and that you’re praying for them as they consider your observation.” (pg. 193, emphasis mine)

No matter what, whether we are giving or receiving correction, may we all walk in humility seeking gospel faithfulness and God’s glory.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1

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Receiving Correction

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

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God’s Faithful Love

God’s love is not like our love and that is a good thing. Garry Williams tells us why writing:

The immutability (unchangeability) and covenant faithfulness of God is good news for sinners whose lives are surrounded and pervaded by the unfaithfulness of which family breakdown is simply the most obvious symptom. We may experience broken trust in so many ways: with our spouses, with our in-laws and extended families, with our friends, with our employers, even with our pastors. (His Love Endures Forever, pg. 134)

He then states:

…we may also be the unfaithful ones: the spouse with the wandering eye, the resentful son-in-law, the treacherous friend, the lazy and dishonest employee, or the obstructive church member.

How have you been a victim of unfaithfulness?

How have you been a perpetrator of unfaithfulness?

How then we must rejoice that God’s love is different…He will never be unfaithful, turn against us, act unjustly toward us, or hound us…It is not just that God has decided to be faithful; it is that in his very triune being he is faithful…The love of God will stand when all else fails, because God always stands. (pg. 135, emphasis original)

Williams later encourages us to pray a prayer confession writing:

I confess with shame that I am so different from you. I am both victim and the perpetrator of unfaithfulness, surrounded by it within and without. All praise to you, the God of faithfulness! (pg. 137)

Thanks be to God for His unchanging holy-love, and by His grace, may our love grow to look more like His.

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Glorious God

We focused on Gather Grow Go for God’s Glory this past Sunday. During the sermon I recommended several books on the Attributes of God to help you think well about the God of all Glory. One recommendation was, God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones. Here is a sample, Jones wrote:

God—and thus also his glory—remains incomprehensible to us. He condescends to give us a little taste of his glory, because he freely chooses, in his glory, to reveal himself to us. We must firmly keep in mind that God has set his glory as the goal of all things, not only in relation to how his creatures must and will act but also in relation to himself. He cannot give his glory to another (Isa. 48:11), but he can and must glorify himself. The three persons in the Godhead all delight to glorify each other, eternally and lovingly.

Our aim is no different: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We glorify the Father who gave us life, the Son who gave his life for us, and the Spirit who produces new life in us. We give God the glory due his name (1 Chron. 16:29).

Yet when we glorify God, we add nothing to his essential glory, the glory he already possesses in himself. We glorify God only as we give him the honor due him in this world according to the way he has dictated in his Word. (pg. 104)

Let me also recommend:

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

His Love Endures Forever by Garry Williams (I have featured this book on the blog before…see here.)

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Evangelism…Help!

On Sunday, Pastor Jess preached the Go of our Gather Grow Go series. As a church, we are praying that we all will Go with the Gospel into every area of our lives and that we will especially be intentional Going with the Gospel for the purpose of evangelizing our neighbors.

At the end of his sermon, Jess offered some practical advice from Darryl Dash’s book, How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life. These points of advice will assist us in our effort to Grow in sharing the Gospel with others. Here they are again for your benefit. Dash wrote:

Here are some ways we can share the gospel with others:

-Extend hospitality to people who aren’t following Jesus. Lean into these relationships, especially with people who seem like they are far from God. Make it a regular part of your life. Invite them into your home and become friends.

-Ask good questions. Be respectful. Listen more than you talk.

-Regularly pray for the people who are resistant and curious. Ask God to work in their lives.

-Refuse to see people as projects. Love them lavishly regardless of whether they follow Jesus or not.

-Don’t feel that you need to follow a script. Stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s timing.

-Ask the Holy Spirit to give you courage to speak clearly and openly about the gospel when the time is right. (pg. 140)

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“Domesticated Gospel”

This past Sunday, as we focused on the Grow of Gather Grow Go, I sought to make the argument that we never outgrow the Gospel. In Christ, the Gospel contains “unsearchable riches” (Eph. 3:8). However, one problem that often plagues us, as D.A. Carson so aptly points out, is that we don’t want such riches. Carson wrote:

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of the gospel, please. Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please.

Of course, none of us is so crass as to put it that way. But most of us have felt the temptation to opt for a domesticated version of the gospel. (Basics for Believers, pgs. 12-13)

Dr. Carson’s words are as penetrating today as when he first wrote them over 20 years ago. He said; “we unwittingly find ourselves formally espousing the gospel…of infinite worth, while in reality we are no longer possessed by it.” Redeemer Church, by God’s grace may this not be true of us! Let us commit to Growing in the Gospel knowing that we will never exhaust it’s unsearchable riches.

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Two Enemies of Service

There are two main enemies that will prevent us from serving one another. They are laziness and busyness. David Gibson writes in his book on Ecclesiastes entitled, Living Life Backwards, the following:

How can I be a giver instead of a getter, a servant of others instead of lord of myself? When we stop and think about serving and loving our neighbor, it prevents two extremes: idle laziness and manic busyness. (pg. 71)

Of laziness, Gibson says:

Laziness is a way of hating your neighbors. You have nothing to give them…Instead of embracing life and giving himself to others, the sluggard gives himself to himself, so in the end all that he has left is himself… (pgs. 71-2)

When it comes to “manic busyness” I’m going to turn to Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy where he quickly sums up the issue and gets to the heart of the matter. DeYoung says that often our “manic busyness” is due to pride and then he offers 12 different manifestations of pride saying: “Pride is the villain with a thousand faces” (pg. 35). I won’t offer all 12, but here is a quick sampling:

People-pleasing: Doing the cookie drive so you can love others is one thing. Doing the cookie drive so that others might love you is quite another. (pg. 35)

Pats on the Back: It’s similar to people-pleasing, except less motivated by fear than by desire for glory. “If I take on this extra assignment, I’ll be a hero to everyone in the office.” Never mind what it will mean for my family, my church, or my walk with the Lord, so long as it means more glory for me. (pg. 35)

Possessions: We work to earn, and we earn to spend. (pg. 36)

Proving Myself: …ambition for our own glory must not be confused with ambition for God’s glory. (pg. 36)

Pity: Let’s face it: people feel sorry for us when we’re busy. (pg. 37)

Power: “I need to stay busy because I need to stay in control.” (pg. 37)

DeYoung offers a simple diagnostic question to help:

Ask yourself: Am I serving me or serving them? Saying yes always looks like the latter, but it’s often all about the former. (pg. 40)

As we can see, both “manic busyness” and laziness are the result of sinful pride that has caused us to be turned inward. Yet, if we are going to serve others we must be focused outward. In both laziness and “manic busyness” we are giving our time to only ourselves (love of self). In order to serve others, we must give our time to them (love of others), but the controlling factor must be God’s glory instead of seeking our own glory. In short, we are talking about loving self for self-glory vs. loving others for God’s glory.

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Confidence in Prayer

As a church, one of our areas of focus for 2019 is prayer. We are hoping that, by God’s grace, we all will grow in the area of prayer this year. In his book, Why We Pray, William Philip offers four reasons why Christians pray. One of the reasons that he emphasizes is our adoption in Christ. We pray to God the Father because we have been adopted as His sons. Philip explains:

We are all sons of God through faith (Gal. 3:26)—not just children but sons and full heirs. (Gender is not at issue here, but status; hence the insistence that we are sons, not just children. The point is that we all share in the full inheritance of the firstborn, Jesus himself.)…which means everything that is his by right of birth is now ours by right of adoption. That’s why we pray. In Jesus Christ we are all sons of God; we have received adoption, and now we all share the extraordinary, privileged, legal status before God the Father of Jesus himself, his only Son. (pg. 52, emphasis mine)

He continued:

Now, this is of vital importance to grasp. Your prayers and mine will not be heard by God because of our sincerity but because of our status. We are sons of God, which means that God cannot not hear us. We are his sons. That’s gospel truth. (pg. 52, emphasis original)

The truth of the Gospel gives us great confidence in prayer. Philip writes:

…being confident in prayer is not presumption; it is faith. It is simply honoring the Lord Jesus Christ and his great salvation, which God has given to us in his abundant mercy. (pgs. 53-4)

To doubt this is to doubt the sufficiency of Christ, Philip says. He concludes:

Your prayers and mine will not be heard because of our faithfulness but on account of Jesus’s great faithfulness. Our prayers will be heard not because we deserve a hearing but because he does. Our prayers will be heard not because of our perfection but because of his marvelous perfection. (pg. 55, emphasis original)

Let us go to the Father in prayer with great confidence and humility.

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Let’s Get Started Right

We love new beginnings, this is why every New Year folks make resolutions as they think about areas of their lives where they would like to see change. The New Year provides a kind of new beginning, a blank slate and fresh start. As Christians, we all should want to grow in the gospel in 2019. Who wouldn’t want to be more Christ-like one year from now?

Here are some resources I’d recommend to assist you this coming year.

Bible Reading

Without a doubt, the first and foremost important need is regular time in God’s Word. There are many yearly Bible reading plans that can help you pace yourself and stay consistent in reading the Bible this year. Ligonier Ministries has compiled a list of many of these Bible reading plans. Take a look here.

Prayer

Here are two good books that will help you grow in your prayer life.

Prayer by John Onwuchekwa

Onwuchekwa wrote: “My hope is that this book will be a guide and a springboard that helps you enjoy the amazing gift of prayer we have as a church.” (pg. 15, emphasis original)

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

Whitney writes: “Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more? I maintain that people—truly born-again, genuinely Christian people—often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.” (pg. 11, emphasis original) Whitney’s answer? Pray the Bible!

Gospel Growth (Sanctification)

 The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Bridges said: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

How To Grow by Darryl Dash

I really like this book. It’s very practical but theologically driven at the same time. Dash wrote: “This should be our prayer…that we grow in our knowledge of the riches we have in the gospel, and that we begin to live with the knowledge that all these riches are ours and more.” (pg. 35)

Habits of Grace by David Mathis

Mathis says: “…the point…(is) to understand the key pathways of ongoing grace and seek to create regular habits for these principles in life.” (pgs. 17-18)

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung wrote: “My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.” (pg. 11, emphasis original)

Daily Life

I wanted to recommend three books I read in 2018 that were really helpful. Two are on productivity and one is on being overly busy.

Do More Better by Tim Challies

Challies says: “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. Productivity calls you to direct your whole life at this great goal of bringing glory to God by doing good for others.” (pg. 16, emphasis original)

 He continued: “Are you a stay-at-home mom? Are you a CEO with a corner office? Are you a teacher, a toolmaker, a doctor, a driver? This is the measure of your productivity (bringing glory to God by doing good to others).” (pg. 17)

How to Get Unstuck by Matt Perman

This is a more detailed and comprehensive book on productivity. Perman says: “In a nutshell, many of us feel like we are not getting done what really matters to us and what we are truly capable of doing.” (pg. 13)

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung writes: “My outline is as simple as three numbers: 3, 7, and 1: three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and one thing you must do (chapter 10).” (pg. 18)

He continued: “We are here and there and everywhere. We are distracted. We are preoccupied. We can’t focus on the task in front of us. We don’t follow through. We don’t keep our commitments. We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away…We wake up most days not trying to serve, just trying to survive.” (pgs. 20-21, emphasis mine)

Happy New Year!

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He Came To Save Us

In his book, Hidden Christmas, Tim Keller wrote:

In 1961 the Russians put the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. Nikita Khrushchev was the Russian premier, and he said that when Gagarin went into space, the cosmonaut discovered that there was no God there. In response C.S. Lewis wrote an article, “The Seeing Eye.” Lewis said if there is a God who created us, we could not discover him by going into the air. God would not relate to human beings the way a man on the second floor relates to a man on the first floor. He would relate to us the way Shakespeare relates to Hamlet. Shakespeare is the creator of Hamlet’s world and of Hamlet himself. Hamlet can know about Shakespeare only if the author reveals information about himself in the play. So too the only way to know about God is if God has revealed himself.

The claim of Christmas is infinitely more wonderful than that. God did not merely write us “information” about himself; he wrote himself into the drama of history. He came into our world as Jesus Christ to save us, to die for us. (pgs. 114-115)

Just as Mary did on the first Christmas, let’s ponder on these things and treasure them in our hearts (Luke 2:19). Merry Christmas!

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