Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tell Me What I Don't Want To Hear

These were eight of the sweetest words I have ever heard and I am concerned that far too many Christians don't even think this way, much less are willing to say it.  I have always tried to be this way, fail though I may, but when a certain someone with whom I had many occasions to interact said it to me, it blew me away.  It didn't make such an impression because I thought the person was incapable of it, it was more so the raw honesty of it that got me. How many of us are truly willing to say it and mean it, much less live lives which reflect the kind of an attitude which displays a willingness to be corrected.

The Scenario

To keep anonymity, I will not be using gender specific pronouns.  Let it suffice to say that it was a husband and wife scenario.

This person was struggling with their marriage.  They had been unhappy for a long time and their spouse was contributing significantly to their challenges.  It was questionable whether the spouse was a Christian and there were many issues between them. This person had had all they could take and was ready to leave. The catch is, they were a devoted Christian and pretty much knew what the bible taught about marriage and divorce.  They were tempted to ignore that. They were so miserable that they almost did not care what God said about the issue anymore.  In fact, the spouse seemed to be coming around to them and to God, but this person was at such a point of hardness that they had nothing left to give.  They really didn't want to try anymore. 

We had discussed it over a period of time and they already knew what my convictions were about it and that while I understood the challenges and sympathized, I could not condone it as a friend and brother in Christ.  So, when things were probably at just about the worst point they could be, this person said to me, "What should I do?"  "Tell me what I should do."  I said, "You already know my position and what my answer will be."  At which point they said to me, "Tell me what I don't want to hear, but what I know I need to hear."  Those words, "Tell me what I don't want to hear" said everything about the deepest aspects of their relationship with God.  I asked, " Are You Sure?"  They said, "Yes".

So I did.  I have spent quite a lot of time studying and writing on the subject of biblical marriage and divorce so I was prepared and I told them, in love, how they needed to think through this biblically; which is what this person would expect me to do.  I pointed out that there was no biblical reason for them to leave their spouse and that their goal must be to find in their relationship with God, what they were not getting from their spouse and to pray for a soft heart.  I even suggested that they pray for the desire to pray for their spouse because that desire had left. 

To make a long story short, the friend ultimately decided they should stay, trust God and fight for their marriage and it has worked out.  It is not perfect but they are now growing together in a new direction with God at the center.  

So What is the Moral of this Story?
I am not sharing this to make a point about marriage primarily or to suggest that things work out perfectly every time you obey God. The larger point is that we should obey God out of our love for him no matter the circumstances and trust Him with the results.  That is one moral.  

I would also say that, this person did not trust my council, only because of our relationship and the fact that they believed it would be biblical.  They also already knew the bible well enough to be able to know if what I was telling them was not biblical; and they actually cared enough about what God wanted to be willing to hear my advice.  As believers we must study scripture and be familiar enough with it to know when we are being given poor council, and we must desire to be held accountable to the word of God by others and by the Holy Spirit.  That would be another moral.  

There is one more.  This would be the main point of this entire post.  That is to answer the question...

What Does Biblical Accountability Look Like?

Some may argue that this story worked out the way it did because I had a face to face relationship with this person and that is the way evangelism and discipleship is most effective.  I would agree wholeheartedly.  Relational evangelism is certainly ideal and it is next to impossible to have true discipleship without a personal relationship.

I think where the big question comes in is, "Where do you draw the line"?  If we do not know a person well, should we mind our own business?  Should we keep it to blood relatives, church family, coworkers?  How far does it extend?  Should biblical accountability only happen face to face or can it happen on line via email or Facebook?  

Should challenges be brought to a person, only if solicited, as it was in this case?  Or, should we challenge each other with concerns regarding Christian living or the lack there of whether a person is asking for it or not. There are many viewpoints on this and the effectiveness of Facebook interactions could be a whole other post so I will not try to make a case for that here.

Two Factors In Accountability

Ultimately, I believe this issue comes down to two factors,  jealousy for God's glory and and a desire for the crucifixion of the flesh by whatever biblical means necessary.  This whole post is a discussion for biblically minded, evangelical Christians because we cannot expect unbelievers to care about obeying God's word much less be able to.

So the two factors I just listed should not be particularly difficult for Christians to understand, accept, or apply.  If you read scripture and listen to biblical teaching you know that we cannot get away from these factors.  


God is clearly jealous for the glory of his name (Ezekiel 36).  Jesus was certainly focused on the glory of the Father and His own glory through the Father (John 8:54, John 17:5, John 12:28).  When Christ returns and for all eternity, the ultimate purpose of every believer and all of creation is to proclaim the glory of God(Isaiah 43:7).  In turn, this should be our purpose now.  We must strive to remain eternally minded in all that we say and do.  

We must be jealous to see the name of God highly exalted because of the clear outworking of the salvation made available to us in Christ Jesus.  When we do not do the loving thing of holding each other accountable and being willing to be held accountable, we show that we are more jealous for our own reputation and comfort than we are for God to be glorified by whatever means necessary.

Death of Flesh

The crucifixion of the flesh goes hand in hand with the idea of this jealousy.  If we desire God's glory above all and that is how we are striving to live, then we should have no trouble being corrected taught, rebuked, or trained in righteousness.  That, after all, is one of the primary purposes for God's word.(2 Timothy 3:16)  We must learn to live in the reality that we are "Crucified with Christ".(Galatians 2:20)  When we become believers it is understood that our flesh has been crucified.(Romans 6:6, Galatians 5:24)  From that point forward, we are to lay aside everything fleshly which is not of the Spirit of God.(Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:25)  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we are instructed by Jesus that if we would be His disciples, we must take up our cross, die to ourselves, and live for Him.

Why Not You, Why Not Me?

So, I told the story at the beginning as an example of what I believe scripture calls us to emulate and what I long to emulate.  Now, if you asked the person in this story if they do this perfectly or if they even kept that attitude perfectly throughout their ordeal, they would say, "Absolutely Not!".  That is because they are not yet perfect and neither are any of us.  Yet scripture knows nothing of using our lack of perfection as an excuse for not pursuing it with all that we have, by God's grace.   

This "tell me what I don't want to hear" attitude is one that we must cultivate and expect of ourselves in order for it to happen.  If we actually believe we are living for the glory of the King, then we should have no problem not only acknowledging our flaws, but being willing to have them pointed out by others when they are in our blind spots.  

In the same way that the prophet Nathan confronted King David about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah we must confront others.(2 Samuel 12:1-14)  In the same way that David received the rebuke and expressed concern that he had "sinned against the Lord"(vs. 12, Psalm 51:4), so must we also be willing to receive correction and acknowledge it before the Lord.  From the smallest white lie or unwitting act of theft to the greatest sins that can be committed when we have drifted away from our first love, we need each other to be the mirror that reflects our flaws.

Are you willing?  I hope I am.  It is not to be attempted lightly or haphazardly.  It must come through relationship with our Heavenly Father, Savior, and Counselor.  That relationship must be developed through a lifestyle of prayer, meditation on the word, and a practiced willingness to submit our wills to His.  

Even if all of that is going pretty well, teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness stings sometimes.  It is difficult to swallow at times.  However, if it is rooted in scripture, then it should not matter from whom or by what venue it comes.  We must be willing to at least consider the expressed concern before rejecting it.  We should be willing to say "Tell me what I don't want to hear." 

We must practice this attitude regularly never forgetting that even as we strive for righteous living and accountability, it is only by His grace that we will see success or are even be able to strive at all.
(1 Corinthians 15:10, Philippians 2:12-13, Colossians 1:29)

Never let us cease to live Coram Deo (before the face of God) that people, believers and unbelievers alike, would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:16)
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever." 
           (Jude 1:24-25)

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