Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The kind of negativity you need in your life

Our culture promotes selfish pride to the point that any confrontation of error or wrongdoing is immediately thrown into the category of the unloving, rude, and judgmental. Even non-believers quote, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Little do people realize that in Matthew 7, as Jesus is ending His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to judge! Not as hypocrites, but in repentance. "Remove the log in your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of other people's eyes."

This goes with what Paul taught in Galatians. "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently." Jesus and Paul taught that Christians confront one another in our sins, both in repenting from sin ourselves AND with the heart of reconciliation, restoring people in error or wrongdoing gently.

When Jesus confronts me in my feeble attempts to manipulate others so I can maintain a sin, He does so out of love. He won't let me get away with living in the comfort of my own make-believe world when He has true happiness in His mercy for me. Sure, my flesh feels the pain and misery of it, but Jesus confronts me for His glorious purpose.

When Jesus sends others to confront me in my error or wrongdoing, I need to remember that I am a sinner, that I don't know everything nor do I have everything figured out, and that Jesus confronts my sin because He loves me.

Why would Jesus and His followers confront me in my error and wrongdoing?

1) That I may have happiness in being conformed to His image.
You will never be satisfied and happy having things your way. You will always want more and more.

True happiness is not found where I naturally look for it: pursuing the endless cravings of my flesh, looking in dark corners for love, peace, and happiness. True happiness is found resting in my Savior, surrendering my all to Him and trusting His steadfast love, peace, and joy.

Being more like Jesus means God confronts our error and wrongdoing so that we turn away from our sin and having things our own way, trusting that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

2) That I may have discernment to see splinters in other sinners' lives; not as a judge, but as a wretch who loves the gospel, the gospel of Jesus who came into the world to save sinners, whom I am the foremost.

The local church is a gospel community to display the love of God as Spirit-filled people. Christian maturity is not a road where it is just me and my Bible. I am confronted by Jesus and His church in my error and wrongdoing, not only for myself, but that I may make mature disciples of others who in turn will also make other mature disciples.

The local church is a family of sinners saved by grace. Jesus made us to need Him and to need one another for encouragement and the building up of one another as mature followers of Jesus.

3) To avoid the negativity of continuing on in sin without repentance, mistaking my comfort for being in God's favor. We find ourselves comfortable away from God's presence when hiding sin, living in a make-believe world we have created for ourselves that tells us that independent strength and words of empowerment is a sign of spiritual maturity. In reality, this isn't strength but a lie.

We broken sinners have the amazing ability to deceive ourselves into comfort with sin. We make-believe that it is strength that we can handle our sin in private, away from God's means of grace in His gospel community of a local church. We hear the echoes of demonic advice from the world: "You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."

We hide our sin, thinking we don't need to learn anything from God nor do we need to be exposed as broken as we truly are. When the prophet Isaiah was confronted by God's awesome presence in Isaiah 6, he immediately yelled out, "I am a man of unclean lips!" When Peter realized that Jesus is the Messiah of God, he cried out, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

We don't want that kind of negativity in our lives! We have enough stress than to be concerned with the holiness of God. We exhaust ourselves by trying to find things in this world to empower us to continue on in life without Jesus, but in the end we are ruined and leave a wake of ruined relationships behind us, including our relationship with God.

Truth is, you do need that kind of negativity in your life. Jesus' exposure of our sin and brokenness is not out of cold rudeness and a strange delight in embarrassing us, but as holy light to reveal who we truly are. Jesus has grace to heal what He exposes in us, with a commitment to love us even though we are unworthy and ugly.

How should we as followers of Jesus handle being confronted in error or wrongdoing?

1) Don't get angry and outraged at the people confronting your sin. Rather, get angry and outraged at sin. In our make-believe world where we have strength and don't need others, we will label the goodness and love of God in a faithful, healthy church that teaches us God's Word which confronts our pride and hidden sin as "church hurt."

I do know "church hurt" is real. Pastors who teach false doctrine, unchallenged sin in churches that feud, gossip, and actively splitting people into groups. People get hurt from such churches. That's not the type of "church hurt" I'm referring to here.

If a Christian gently but firmly tells you the truth of God's Word with a desire to restore you to God and calling for you to turn from your sin, that's love not "church hurt." When our make-believe world gets surrounded by God, we feel threatened and want to get angry and outraged at others in order to justify our sinful life. We don't want God to invade the fortress we have built around our hearts, lest we be exposed as broken and sinful.

Fight for joy by being angry and outraged by your own sin. Be thankful to God for the light of His Word that reveals the dark spots of error and wrongdoing in your heart. Turn from those things to find true happiness in the Lord Jesus.

2) Be teachable. This requires the humility of being a good listener. You don't know everything about God, about holiness, about your own life and what's best for you. God does, and He sends folks in His gospel community to help us for our good and His glory.

Pride is such the evil that in our make-believe world we do not need to be taught or confronted about anything. Our culture says nothing is wrong, so no wisdom is needed and no sin is left to be confronted. Wrongdoing and the lack of wisdom is what other people need.

The follower of Jesus has the humility to realize we lack wisdom and need to be taught God's truth.

3) Remember grace. With new eyes of faith, we see clearly the fierce chaos of life. We must remember that all of life, including our faith in Jesus becoming more and more mature, is in the merciful, sovereign hand of God. Remember His faithfulness when you feel the sorrow and guilt of your faithlessness. Remember His steadfast love when your love is cold and failing.

Dear reader, my prayer is that your heart is pierced by God's Word, not simply for pain, but for the joy of true healing in the good news message of Jesus our Lord. You must be a committed part of the fellowship of a healthy local church, a gospel community. The teaching of God's Word, reminder of His grace and faith to His promises, and yes gently confronting of error and wrongdoing in each others' lives is exactly the kind of negativity you need in your life.

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