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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Ready to Reason and Rebuke

It's our duty as witnesses.

To Stop the Lie (6)

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1.19

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2.24-26

Listen and persuade
We who know the truth in Jesus Christ cannot simply stand by while the lie ravages churches, communities, families, individuals, and whole societies and cultures. Paul says we must be prepared to issue a sharp rebuke to those who are trapped in the strong grip of the lie and are leading others away from the truth into the death pit of lies, whether they are in the church or outside it. As we mentioned previously, a sharp rebuke does not mean an angry, nasty denunciation. It is instead a rather more careful, pointed, and effective way of rendering speechless those who promulgate lies, leaving them with nothing left to say.

Of course, the first line of approach in dealing with those who promote lies is patient listening coupled with gentle persuasion. We need to understand the versions of the lie that have taken our neighbors captive, so that we can patiently and persistently help them come to their senses and make a clean break with lies. At all times we need to treat people with respect, as human beings made in the image of God and, thus, always susceptible to the in-breaking of truth when it is offered in a firm, clear, and gracious manner by those whose hope in Jesus is manifest (1 Pet. 3.15; Col. 4.6). We must speak the truth in love and for the edification of others, not to denounce or demean.

We do not want to put anyone down or try to force our beliefs on those who feel comfortable in their wrong belief. We seek to persuade, not to belittle or condemn. And part of persuasion may require us to employ the sharp rebuke to help people wake up from their stupor of deceit.

The sharp rebuke
The goal of a sharp rebuke, as previously mentioned, is to reach the soul of a person and expose the lies and folly informing their worldview and motivating their behavior. We want them to see that their current beliefs – about the world, life, our greatest need, our final destination, and so forth – are wrong beliefs, for they will not come to embrace the truth until they have seen the lies in which they are ensnared.

Like those to whom Peter preached in Acts 2, our objective must be to prick the conscience, alarm the mind, and deliver a blow to the heart of those who are standing against the truth of Jesus Christ. Thus, we must not shy away from exposing folly, identifying sin, or calling people to repentance. I know, that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you get very excited about doing. But the household of lies is becoming engulfed in flames of divine judgment (Rom. 1.18-32), and we need to alert the people inside that it’s time to flee to safety.

We must be bold to say to people that they are in danger before the Lord for rejecting His truth and preferring their own chosen path in life (Rom. 6.23). And we must shine the bright, warm light of truth on their soul with the precision of a surgeon’s laser scalpel (Heb. 4.12).

At all times we will want to use sound reason so that those we’re confronting can examine their views or practices rather more objectively than is their wont, and so that we can walk them through the teaching of Scripture in a way that can overcome previous prejudice. Our attitude in this effort is like that of God to the Israelites: “Come, let us reason together. Let’s look at what you believe and see if this is really a reliable place to stand” (Is. 1.18-20).

Reason is not the tool we hope will finally enable them to come to their senses and escape the grip of the father of lies; only grace can accomplish conversion to the truth of Jesus. Reason is the tool we use to clear a path for the teaching of Scripture, which is quite able on its own, thank you very much, to bring conviction, contrition, and silence to boasting mouths, and joy to converted souls.

Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and repentance. Reason may open the door, and a sharp rebuke may get their attention, but only revelation, in the mighty hand of the Spirit of grace and truth, will deliver the healing thrust.

Powerful to open the heart
Obviously, our ability to issue a sharp rebuke depends on growing maturity in God’s Word. We must press on to know the Scriptures and to improve our use of them in discerning between good and evil, right and wrong, wisdom and folly (Heb. 5.12-14). Reason can engage the conversation; winsomeness can set an agreeable tone; patient listening can earn the right to be heard; and rebuke can help to clarify the lies that lead to wrong belief. But only divine revelation – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is powerful to break the hold of the lie, shake a person free from its strong grip, and open their heart to the truth of God.

We should not expect everyone with whom we thus reason or whom we rebuke to receive our words gratefully. Let’s face it: this way be dragons. Even Paul, as patient, persuasive, and to the point as he was, could not convince all who heard him to forsake the lie and cling to the truth of Christ (Acts 17.32-34). We should expect the same and give thanks to God for however He is pleased to use our witness.

But given what we know about the lie, that it is not only a source of harm to people but of offense to God, we cannot turn away when it comes to light before us. We must be ready with reason and rebuke to help those who are trapped in the lie consider the option of God’s truth.

And the only effective tool for bringing the lie to silence is the living and powerful Word of God (Heb. 4.12), wielded by those who know and live it (Ps. 149.6-9), are patient to clear a path for it and bold to proclaim and teach it to those in the grip of the father of lies.

Get a grip on the fact that God has called you to this as a witness for Christ. And make yourself ready to reason and rebuke as the Lord opens doors of opportunity in your daily life.

For reflection
1. What is the role of reason in helping people face up to the lies in which they have become ensnared?

2. “Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and repentance. Reason may open the door, and a sharp rebuke may get someone’s attention, but only revelation, in the mighty hand of the Spirit, will deliver the healing thrust.” In the light of Acts 1.8, and our calling as witnesses to Christ, what role should Scripture play in helping others break free of the lie?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident do you feel explaining the Gospel to a lost person? What’s one thing you might do to move that assessment one or two numbers closer to 10?

Next steps - Transformation: What could you do to improve your ability to recognize and confront the lie when you discover it in your own heart? Among your Christian friends? In the wrong-believing people in your Personal Mission Field?

T. M. Moore

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

Two resources can help you improve your witness for Christ and make it more consistent. Order your free copies of The Gospel of the Kingdom and Joy to Your World! by clicking here and 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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