“The ear that listens to life-giving proof will dwell among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).
Are you correctable? Are you the kind of person who receives rebuke well?
No one likes to be confronted or rebuked or admonished; but, I am not asking, “Do you enjoy it?” I am asking if you are the kind of Christian that is approachable for such a moment.
We don’t enjoy correcting others, but we know it is loving ministry to the one who needs someone to sound an alarm (Acts 20:31; Rom 15:14; I Cor 4:14; Col 1:28).
Receiving correction requires humility.
Charles Spurgeon said of himself that when he was criticized, he was thankful that his critics didn’t know everything about him, because he had a sense that their criticisms would have been even worse.
Spurgeon has much to teach us about criticism. Here is synopsis of some his thoughts on being correctable.
Receive your critic in love – “You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of the congregation; and you must let the critic go without reckoning him among your deadly foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling.”
If you are going to speak the truth, you should expect criticism – “We cannot expect those to approve of us whom we condemn by our testimony against their favorite sins.”
Criticism can be an act of love to you – “A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand indiscriminating admirers, if you have sense enough to bear his treatment and grace enough to be thankful for it.”
False criticism will not last forever – “In almost all cases, it is the wisest course to let such things die a natural death. A great lie, if unnoticed, is like a big fish out of water—it dashes and plunges and beats itself to death in a short time.”
If you live a life of integrity, let God vindicate you – “Our best course is to defend our innocence by our silence and leave our reputation with God. Yet there are exceptions to this general rule. When distinct, definite, public charges are made against a man, he is bound to answer them, and answer them in the clearest and most open manner.”
Don’t respond to criticism with criticism – “Abstain from fighting your own battles, and in nine cases out of ten, your accusers will gain nothing by their malevolence but chagrin for themselves and contempt from others. To prosecute the slanderer is very seldom wise.”
“Dislike of dogma is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people…It produces what I must venture to call…a “jelly-fish” Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power. A jelly-fish…is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation…We have hundreds of “jelly-fish” clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have no definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all. We have thousands of “jelly-fish” sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint. We have legions of “jelly-fish” young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scarps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth…And last, most of all, we have myriads of “jelly-fish” worshippers – respectable Church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blond people can distinguish colors. They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sounds and no clergyman unsound…Never was it so important for laymen to hold systematic views of truth, and for ordained ministers to “enunciate dogma” very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.” (Principles for Churchmen)
The quick test for whether someone fears God is to look at their pattern of obedience, or lack thereof. Solomon made this statement which would be a fine life verse for any Christian – “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). The order is significant, because obedience is produced by the one who fears – the one who reveres God. Fearing God is the spring from which obedience flows.
Fearing God is not something that frightens or scares us away from God but draws us near Him.
How can one cultivate a fear of God? Let me give you 5 prescriptions for cultivating Theophobia.
Remind yourself that you are always in the presence of God. Since God is omnipresent, that means we can never flee from His presence. He sees every motive, every so-called secret sin, every action we perform alone, and every word muttered under our breath. Remember in Genesis 28 when Jacob had a dream where a ladder went to heaven and angels were ascending and descending from it? After waking from that dream, Jacob said, “’The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’” (Gen 28:16-17). God is never absent. The more you meditate on that truth, the deeper your fear of Him will become.
Dwell on the meaning of the forgiveness of your sin. Think on the words Jesus uttered from the cross – “It is finished”. The slate is washed clean! The psalmist said, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps 130:3-4). Knowing your own forgiveness of all the wretched sins you have committed will help lay a foundation for fearing God. God could release His fury against us, but He, instead, released all His forgiveness. That will get you moving to fear Him.
Daily commune with God in His Word. The kings in the O.T. were required to write out the Law upon receiving their kingship – “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved bythe Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, THAT HE MAY LEARN TO FEAR THE LORD HIS GOD by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deut 17:18-20). You can’t help but cultivate a fear of God as you grow to know Him and His deeds from Scripture. Those who fear God know His word and they know it well. They don’t have a causal understanding of it or barely read it every now and then. They know it like a king is to know the laws he enforces.
Invest time with others who fear God. When you choose friends, choose God-fearing ones. Good friends with good convictions can become contagious, which is why Scripture warns us about bad company corrupting good morals (I Cor 15:33).
Petition God to deepen your fear of Him. The Bible says that if we ask for things in Jesus’ name, we will receive them. Think God wants us to fear Him? That is a request God is “dying” to grant. James 4:2 same the reason we often lack things in the Christian life is because we don’t ask for them. If you lack a fear of God or your fear of God is weak, ask God to bolster it. I guarantee He will direct you the spiritual resources necessary to honor that request.
The choice is clear: choose today whom you will fear. Will it be man who is just like you? Or will it be God who made you?
“Modern believers have a bad habit of acting as if the Christian faith began with us, with the result that we end up doing “theology on the fly,” ignoring a few thousand years of Christian history as if not much of importance was learned. We tend to think that what’s trending on Twitter is somehow important just because it’s current, when the fact that it’s popular and fashionable in all probability means it’s decidedly unimportant. We tend to be guilty of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” the flawed belief that newer ideas are always better than old ones. There’s a lot of trendy theology these days; like puffs of smoke on a windy day, most of it won’t last, and shouldn’t.” (Hand in Hand, pgs. 177-178)