“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5
All too often these days, we hear reports of Christians buckling under the pressure of society (or even the Church) to deny the word of God, to some extent or another. Some have even strayed from the path altogether and have become false teachers; speaking what people want to hear, rather than preaching the pure Word of God. As you read this, I have no doubt that at least one or more names come to the forefront of your mind.
Many, who mean well, are simply unprepared when the occasion arises. And this is what I would like to focus on today.
When it comes to being prepared, we must remember that there are basically two types of people with whom we will come into contact; believers and non-believers. And we should not presume to approach both in the same way. In order to be thoroughly prepared, let’s look at the proper way to address each.
Correct, Rebuke, Encourage
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. Luke 17:3
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. Romans 15:14
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 1 Timothy 5:20
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Our responsibility in confronting a brother or sister should never be for the purpose of criticism or fault-finding. That is judgment of a kind that is not permitted. Those who act in this way have forgotten their place, and will be judged by God in the same manner and to the same degree as they judge others (Matthew 7:1-2). Rather, all admonishment should be done for the purpose of correction, instruction, encouragement and when possible, restoration.
Bottom line: We should never admonish a brother or sister based on our opinions or feelings, but upon God’s clear Word and prayerful direction. And always in the spirit of love and for the purpose of restoration to the body of Christ.
Do the Work of an Evangelist
There is a vast difference between preaching the gospel and attacking people for their particular sin. When speaking with non-believers, many Christians make the mistake of condemning their personal sins, rather than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and His love and forgiveness of sin. Because we are so focused on taking a stand against sins in an unsaved world, we not only miss the opportunity to share Christ, but we alienate the very ones who need Him the most.
But what does the Bible say?
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
“If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. John 12:47-48
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
The Church is called to be a witness to the unsaved world; to reflect the love of God, and to preach Christ and Him crucified. We have not, under any circumstances, been appointed judge and jury to anyone. Even Jesus, who had every right and qualification to do so, did not pass judgment on or condemn those who rejected Him as Savior.
How can we avoid being caught off guard?
- Know your God – As important as it is to know God’s word, it is even more important to know God; to know His will; and to have His spirit powerfully residing within us. We can have this by spending quality time and communion with Him.
- Know your Bible – To stand in God’s Truth, we must know and be convinced of His Truth. If our faith is not solid, we will not stand firm when challenged by those who would have us deny God and His Truth.
- What would Jesus Do? – No matter the question, Jesus always brought things back to the heart of the matter: our sinful condition and necessary salvation. We must seek Him for wisdom in how we should respond when confronted by those who want only to test and discredit us (and God, by default) for our answer.
- Follow Jesus’ Example and Get to the Heart of the Matter – The Bible says we are all born spiritually dead and separated from God. Without Christ, we will remain that way throughout eternity. Consequently, what a person is or does matters not in terms of eternal destiny, if they have not accepted Christ as their Savior.
- Practice – It may sound crazy, but I believe it’s important for us to anticipate scenarios that may come our way, and pray for wisdom and discernment in advance as to how we should respond. One way I do this is to imagine a conversation that is likely to happen. Below, is one scenario that I’ve recently prayed for wisdom about:
Them: So, what are your views on homosexuality?
Me: What do you mean?
Them: Well, how do you feel about it?
Me: I have no ‘feelings’ about it? Why do you ask?
Them: I was just wondering if you see it as right or wrong.
Me: Why would you ask me about what’s right or wrong? I’m no one’s standard.
Them: Well, I know you’re a Christian and I’m just curious what your thoughts are about it.
Me: Okay then, here are my thoughts. Homosexuality isn’t the heart of the matter.
Them: What do you mean?
Me: Whether someone is homosexual isn’t the issue. The issue is whether or not that person knows Christ as their Savior.
Them: Okay, let’s say they do know Christ and they’re homosexual.
Me: Then I would feel very confident in saying that they can search the scriptures and even speak to God Himself about the matter; since they have declared Him to be the ultimate authority in their life and the scriptures are very clear on the subject.
Them: Okay. What if they’re not a Christian, what would you say then?
Me: So now we’re back to the real issue. The Bible says we are all born spiritually dead and separated from God. And without Christ, we will remain that way throughout eternity. So you see, what a person is or does matters not at all in terms of eternal destiny, if they have not accepted Christ as their Savior.
To some of you reading this, it may seem that I’m evading the issue; but the contrary is true. The world and (in response) many Christians make the social/moral issue the issue. But that’s a diversion from the enemy. A perfect example can be found in John 8:3-11:
The Jewish leaders brought a woman before Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They asked Him, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” And how did Jesus respond? “But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'” Jesus did not fall into their trap concerning matters of the Law. What He did do, was to bring the question back to the heart of the matter. Not just with them, but with her: “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.'”
In His infinite wisdom, Jesus honed in on what He knew to be the real issue. And this is only one of many examples. He will give us this wisdom also, if we will seek Him for it. But let’s not wait until we are faced head on by those who seek to dishonor God through our ill-prepared responses. Let’s choose to seek Him now; not only to answer those who would question us, but to live our lives everyday in a way that honors and magnifies Him above all else.