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Rebuking the Lie

It comes down to you and me.

To Stop the Lie (5)

This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith… Titus 1.13

Get ready
At some point in seeking to expose the lies of this wrong-believing age and to make new room for the truth of God to flourish and bear fruit, we’re going to have to take on those who are promulgating the lie in its various forms, knowingly or not, and whether they are within the church or without. We mustn’t back down from this, and we mustn’t expect that someone else is better able to challenge the lie.

Just as Jesus fearlessly exposed the folly of His detractors (Matt. 12.22-29), and Paul instructed Timothy to correct those who were in the grip of the father of lies (2 Tim. 2.24-26), so we, too, must be ready and willing to stand up to the lie, expose its folly, and call its bluff.

This doesn’t require a lot of shouting, finger-pointing, and name-calling. Rather, speaking the truth in love, and always for edification (Eph. 4.15, 29), we must patiently, lovingly, and persistently seek to help those who are caught up in lies to discern the errors of their thinking and look for more solid ground on which to stand.

But even that may require a kind of unbudging firmness that some may find offensive.

Paul instructed Titus to “rebuke sharply” those who, by trafficking in lies, were upsetting and doing harm to others and creating problems among the believers in Crete. We need to understand the idea behind this term. To rebuke someone sharply does not mean that we get angry and overheated or resort to ad hominem tactics. It simply means that we demonstrate a firmness regarding truth that leaves no place for the lie.

Defiled image-bearers
We must always remember that those who traffic in or are caught up in lies are image-bearers of God and objects of His love. But they are “defiled” – that’s Paul’s word (Tit. 1.15) – both in their thinking and their priorities and practices. The lie has made such an impression on some people that it has taken over their thinking, desires, values, and choices. Such people do not need our condemnation; instead, they need patience, gentleness, and probably a series of extended conversations if they’re ever going to break out of the web of lies in which they have become ensnared.

A “sharp rebuke” therefore is not one that seeks to denigrate, condemn, or embarrass someone; it simply wants to cut to the chase concerning the particular form of the lie that may be manifesting itself at any time. We use a rebuke because we want to confront and correct; we make it sharp because it points at an issue or a view, and not a person. A sharp rebuke denies the validity of what is being said, or the propriety of an action, and points instead to the truth of God as that which is worthy of His image-bearers.

Just as when the LORD rebuked the lying accusations of Satan and sent him packing (Zech. 3.1-3).

Thus we need to make sure that our hearts are saturated with love for those we intend to confront, so that, while we may issue a sharp rebuke, hopefully, we may gain them for the faith of Christ.

Understanding the lie
But we also need to make sure that we understand the particular manifestation of the lie that seems to have them in snares. For this we will have to develop the art of being good listeners (Jms. 1.19).

In our day the lie takes two broad and general shapes: relativism and pragmatism. Relativists insist that truth is what people understand it to be, depending on their circumstances and the influences that have impacted their lives over time. A relativist cannot say definitively that this or that idea or perspective is true; the most he can say is that it may be true for me, for now. The relativist view, in effect, allows each person to be a god, having the power to define experiences, establish truths, and make judgments based on those truths. Those who hold to such a view will only be inclined to seek escape from it when they are helped to see the utter folly of such thinking.

Pragmatists take a somewhat more solid view of truth in that they believe truth is whatever works to help me achieve or realize whatever goals I have set for myself. Pragmatists are only slightly more objective in their view of truth than relativists in that you are more likely to find a pragmatist poring over the “how to” literature in whatever field or activity to discover the best ways of making something work. Relativists may or may not have such concerns. Pragmatism is also a form of self-deification, for it allows the one who thinks in this manner to determine the proper ends and means for making some action “work”.

Both views have found their way into Christian teaching and the life of the Church, and, consequently, into the lives of believers as well. Whenever any believer or Christian leader gives as a justification for anything “this is what God led me to do” (relativism) or “this is what works for us” (pragmatism) as opposed to “this is what the Scriptures say”, there we see the influence of these cornerstones of the lie, and there we must be prepared to understand the peculiar ways these influences are being expressed so that we can confront them pointedly and lovingly with a sharp rebuke.

And wherever we encounter such thinking among the wrong-believers in our lives, we must be ready to question, converse, explore, and rebuke, having our speech at all times seasoned with grace and speaking the truth of God in love (Col. 4.6).

There is nothing loving about allowing people to live the lie unchallenged. Doing so will not help the Church fulfill its calling to the Kingdom and glory of God; and it will only allow wrong-believers to continue leading deluded and disappointing lives.

And there is no one better suited to challenge – and rebuke – the lie than those who are immersed in the truth of God.

For reflection
1.  Why must you not be content to allow the lie to establish a beachhead in your soul? Your church?

2.  How would you explain the idea of a “sharp rebuke” to a believing friend? What’s the purpose? The focus? What must we always keep in mind? What should our motive and demeanor be in issuing a sharp rebuke?

What obstacles can keep you from taking up this duty of working to stop the lie? How can believers help one another overcome these obstacles?

Next steps – Transformation: Begin with yourself. What would it sound like for you to rebuke your own soul for harboring some semblance of the lie? Carry out this exercise before the Lord in prayer.

T. M. Moore

You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

A companion book to this study, Understanding the Times, is available at our bookstore. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here.

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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