It's hard to believe that the first month of the New Year is already over.How are your resolutions going?If you are statistically normal, you have long abandoned any attempt to keep the resolutions you made back on December 31 or January 1.There is one resolution, though, that we cannot afford to abandon.That's the resolution that I suggested to you back on December 27 as we looked forward to the New Year.I suggested to you that we make 2016 the year of transformation.
I hope that we can get to the point where we, sinners redeemed by the grace of God, are able and willing to help other sinners saved by the grace of God to become more like Jesus for his glory.The model for this sort of transformation is this: God transforms people's lives as people bring his Word to others.God uses his Word to transform us at the heart level, which is the only transformation that lasts.
As we revisit the theme of transformation today, I want us to think about how we communicate God's truth to others so that they (and us) can grow in Christ (be transformed).So, today we will consider transformation through truth telling in love.Even more specifically, I want us to think about transformation through truth telling in love in the context of confronting people with the Word of God.
(Sermon based on Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp, chapter 11.)
I.Rebuke: Warm and Fuzzies or Chill Down the Spine?
A.Rebuke is the word the Bible uses for bringing truth where change is needed.
B.Yet, most of us don't react positively when we hear it.
1.For example, if I called you one night and said that I would like to come over the next morning to rebuke you, how would you respond?
2.Would you run to a friend and say, "The most wonderful thing is going to happen to me tomorrow!Tito is coming over to rebuke me.I can't wait!It has been so long since I've been rebuked."
3.It is unlikely that any of us would react like that.
4.Many of us would rather go to the dentist and be drilled without Novocain.
C.When we think of rebuke, we think of harsh words, red faces, ultimatums, and threats.
D.We don't think of an act of patient and committed love.
E.So it is important to consider what the biblical model of rebuke looks like because it is a component of transformation through truth telling in love.
II.Seven Principles of Biblical Confrontation.
A.Confrontation is rooted in a submission to the first great command.
Mt. 22:37-38 – 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is thefirst and great commandment.
1.Twice our passage says, "I am the Lord."
2.God intends confrontation to be an expression of our submission to him in our relationships with others.
a.From God's perspective, the only reason we confront one another is that we love the Lord and want to obey him.
b.So, when we confront for other reasons (or don't confront), at that moment we are loving something else more than we love God.
c.If we love God above all else, confrontation is an extension and expression of that love.
3.The Bible tells us that one of the most reliable indicators of our love for God is the quality of our love for our neighbor, 1 Jn. 3:11-20; 4:7-21.
1 Jn. 3:16-18 – By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
a.The foundation of the second great command is the first – you can't love your neighbor as yourself if you don't first love God above all else.
b.Our willingness to gossip, to live in anger, and trim the truth reveals something deeper than a lack of love for people.
c.It exposes a lack of love for God.
1)We no longer serve as his ambassadors in relationships but use them for our own purposes.
2)They become places where our needs can be met.
3)Then, because we are afraid to lose what we crave, we live in silence as our neighbor steps outside God's boundaries.
4.Love for God is the only reliable foundation for a ministry of truth speaking.
5.Biblical confrontation has little to do with us – it is about the Lord, motivated by a desire to draw people back into close, obedient, and loving communion with him.
B.Confrontation is rooted in the second great command.
Mt. 22:39 – And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
1.Isn't it interesting that the OT call to love your neighbor as yourself is tied to this call to frank rebuke?
2.A rebuke free of unrighteous anger is a clear sign of biblical love, but we often replace love in our relationships with "being nice."
a.Being nice and acting out of love are not the same thing.
b.Our culture puts a high premium on being tolerant and polite.
c.We seek to avoid uncomfortable moments, so we see, but don't speak.
d.We go so far as to convince ourselves that we are not speaking because we love the other person, when in reality we fail to speak because we lack love.
3.True love is not offensively intrusive or rude, but the Bible repudiates covering sin with a façade of silence.
a.It teaches that those who love will speak, even if it creates tense, upsetting moments.
b.If we love people and want what is best for them, ho can we stand by as they wander away?
1)How can we let them deceive themselves with excuses, blame, and rationalizations?
2)How can we watch them get more and more enslaved by the fleeting pleasures of sin?
4.The truth is that we fail to confront, not because we love others too much, but because we love ourselves too much.
a.We fear people will misunderstand us or be angry with us.
b.We are afraid of what others might think.
c.We don't want to endure the hardships of honesty because we love ourselves more than we love our neighbors.
C.Confrontation is our moral responsibility in every relationship, 19:17 (surely rebuke)
1.Rebuke is not something that exists outside a good relationship, brought in only at crisis moments.
a.The Bible actually presents confrontation as one of the cords of a strong relationship.
b.Often when we hear the words rebuke and confrontation, we think of radical moments of truth telling, a long list of stern indictments against somebody who is significantly rebellious or who has tragically wandered away.
c.The biblical model, however, recognizes that as we live and work with others, our hearts will be progressively exposed and as things get exposed they are supposed to be dealt with (as they are being exposed).
2.This passage, however, doesn't give you permission to live as if you were someone else's conscience.
a.It does not call us to self-righteousness that displays a rude and judgmental spirit.
b.It does not assume two classes of people: the rebuker and the neighbor.
1)The rebukers are the neighbors and the neighbors are the rebukers.
2)As neighbors we live in desperate need of the loving restraint God gives us through my neighbors.
3)As neighbors, we are called to serve others in the same way.
D.Confrontation is meant to be more of a lifestyle than an unusual event.
1.Sometimes confrontation is so rare that we lack the necessary understanding, expectations, and skills to do it biblically.
2.From the Bible's perspective, a good relationship always grows in its ability to recognize, confront, and deal with truth.
E.We fail to confront in love because we have yielded to subtle and passive forms of hatred.
1.Embedded in Leviticus 19 is a contrast between love and hatred.
2.Think of this passage in this way:
a.At the center is a high plateau of love, based on commitment to honest rebuke.
b.On either side is a dark valley of hatred.
1)One is the valley of passive hatred and the other is the valley of active hatred.
2)Both are temptations and both are wrong!
3.This passage is clear that we must find a way to lovingly confront sin when we see it in others.
4.If we fail to do so, we cannot excuse ourselves by saying, "Maybe I am not loving this person as God wants me to, but at least I do not hate him."
a.There is no neutral ground between love and hatred.
b.Our response to the sins of others is either motivated by second great command love or by some form of hatred.
5.One subtle form of hatred is favoritism – granting favor to some but refusing it to others because of a standard we have set up in our own minds.
a.It may be based on economic status, physical appearance, ethnicity, doctrinal differences, or self-righteousness.
b.Some people live outside of the circle of our favor (and therefore our ministry) simply because of who they are.
6.A second form of passive hatred is bearing a grudge.
a.We keep a record of what someone has done against us.
b.We go over it again and again, each time growing angrier and giving ourselves more reason to despise that person.
c.Our anger grows even when no further sin has been committed.
d.No matter what the other person does, he/she can't do anything right in our eyes.
e.And we can't minister to them biblically.
7.This passage warns us of the myth of the "neutral ground."
8.The question here is this: are our responses to the people around us going to be motivated by biblical love or by self-righteous, prejudiced, and grudge-bearing hatred.
F.We fail to confront because we have yielded to more active forms of hatred.
1.This passage says that there are three ways our hatred actively reveals itself: injustice, gossip, and revenge.
2.Injustice perverts God's system of restraint, 15.
a.It doesn't protect, correct, or restrain sinners.
b.It hurts and mistreats instead.
3.Gossip doesn't lead a person to make humble confession before God or others, 16.
a.When we gossip, we confess the sin of another person to someone who is not involved.
b.Gossip doesn't restrain sin; it encourages it.
c.It doesn't build someone's character; it destroys his/her reputation.
d.Gossip doesn't lead a person to growth; it produces anger and defensiveness.
4.Revenge is the opposite of ministry – ministry is motivated by a desire for someone's good and revenge is motivated by a desire to harm, 18.
5.What is so terribly serious about all of this is that we have been called to incarnate the glory of Christ's love on earth – to love as he loved us so that people would know we are his disciples.
a.The ultimate apologetic for the reality of the Gospel is the loving unity of the body of Christ, a unity so deep, resilient, and pervasive that it can only be compared to the unity of the Trinity, Jn. 13-17.
b.Our call is to find satisfaction in our relationships, not because people please us, but because we delight in displaying God's love to a hopeless world.
G.Confrontation flows out of a recognition of our identity as the children of God.
1.Here we go back to the fact that God gives as reason that we should do what he says that he is the Lord, 16, 18.
2.Everything we are and have belongs to him, and we will find our greatest joy in relationships when we recognize that they too belong to him.
3.When our identity is in Christ, we are able to deal with people around us selflessly because we are not looking for self-validation in them.
III.Biblical Confrontation Starts with Your Own Heart.
A.Since personal biblical ministry involves building relationships that encourage and support God's work in hearts, it is impossible to serve without being touched by the sin and struggle of those we serve.
1.The angry person will get angry with you.
2.The distrustful person will question your trustworthiness.
3.The discouraged person will probably receive your best counsel with cynicism and doubt.
B.Since personal ministry is about incarnating the presence of Christ, we want to respond in the right way to the things we experience in the relationship.
1.If we are going to be faithful to Christ in these circumstances, we must begin by examining our own hearts.
2.Are there thoughts, motives, or attitudes (self-righteousness, anger, bitterness, a spirit of condemnation, desire for revenge) that would get in the way of what God intends to do?
3.As instruments of Christ's grace, we must confess that we need that grace just as much as the people we are helping.
4.Sadly, this type of preparation is often neglected and the result is that the rebuke is not effective.
5.If we don't start with our own heart, we will tend to do the following:
a.Turn the moments of ministry into moments of anger – my words will be shaped more by my anger than by the good God wants to do through me.
b.Personalize what is not personal – the offenses against me will seem more significant than the person's relationship with God.
c.Be adversarial in our approach.
d.Confuse our opinion with God's Word.
e.Settle for quick solutions that don't address the heart – I will be attracted to superficial solutions that allow me to move on from the "burden" of this relationship.
C.Remember that God has ordained that person, that sinner, that difficult person to be in your life so that both of you can grow and be transformed.
1.Humbly acknowledge the ways God is using this person to expose the area where you need to grow.
2.Embrace the fact that God can transform the heart of that person without neglecting you.
3.Through you, God is fighting for that person's heart and through him/her God is holding tightly to yours.
IV.Biblical Confrontation Starts with the Right Goals.
A.Our heart now being in the right place, we can consider what God wants to accomplish when we confront someone – what are our goals?
B.There are two goals that we want to accomplish when confronting someone biblically.
1.We want to be used by God as mirrors of his Word in the lives of others.
a.We are not trying to advance our own opinion.
b.We want to help people see themselves in the mirror of God's Word.
c.We want to help them see what God sees.
2.We want to be used by God as agents of repentance – Our goal is that through the things we say, the way we say them, and the attitudes we have, God will change the heart of the person we are ministering to.
V.Don't Leave the Gospel at the Door.
A.The grace of the Gospel is what turns our hearts.
B.Confronting people should not only confront them with failure an sin, it should also confront them with the Gospel.
1.We need to remind people of their identity in Christ.
2.We need to remind people of God's amazing promise of forgiveness.
3.We need to remind people of the wonderful gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who gives us strength to obey
C.These truths will give believers the courage to examine their hearts, confess their sin, and turn to Christ.
As we root our truth speaking in the Gospel, our goal is that hearts would be changed by the work of Christ that the Gospel declares.First, we want the promises of forgiveness and power to give people real hope for change.Second, we want the call of the Gospel to cause people to accept responsibility for their sin and accept God's call to obey.The heart that has embraced both the hope and the obligation can receive honest words of the grandeur of God's call to obey in light of Gospel truths.He is ready to live as a true child of God, as someone who can be honest about himself and follow God in faith and obedience. The result?Transformation!