Thursday, August 13, 2015

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          When I was younger, I saw a small sculpture of the three little monkeys which displayed the images of see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.  At that time, I considered them as a positive message for all society, thinking they presented a warning to guard ourselves against evil; do not look at evil, listen to evil, or speak evil.  During President Obama’s campaign, he stated that it was his mission to bring back “hope and change” by “fundamentally transforming America.”  In my opinion, he has been greatly successful in his mission in an overwhelmingly negative way.  Now, before anyone takes offence, or gets bent out of shape, let me assure you, this is only my opinion.  It is not my intention to blame Pres. Obama for all the ills in our country. 
          Whether we have realized it or not, we have been drifting farther and farther away from God, His moral standards, and godly principles for quite some time.  Those who were born during the thirties and forties, especially Christians, have been firsthand witnesses of the moral, social, and cultural decline within both the body of Christ, and our nation.  Nationally, we have passed federal, state, and local laws that are contrary to the word of God, effectively removing the constraints of evil, which were once provided by the influence of Judeo-Christian principles and ethics. Essentially, these laws have worked to remove God (Jehovah God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) from practically every public venue.  Historically in America, not one president ever denied the influence of the biblical God and His word in the development of our country.  That is not meant to give the impression that all citizens were believers in Christ, but rather that the Judeo-Christian held standards of the Holy Bible have held a prominent position of influence in the foundations of our country, and in the individual lives of the majority of its citizens. If you question the validity of that statement, just take a trip to Washington D.C. and see for yourself sculptures of Moses, carved scrolls representing the Ten Commandments on the large oak doors of the Supreme Court, and many more.  In addition, at the bottom of the Constitution, just above all the signatures of the founding fathers, it clearly states “in the year of our Lord.”  However, Obama is the first president to vocally and publicly declare that not only are we not a Christian nation, but that Islam has always been a part of the fabric of our nation, creating a sharp contrast and break from all opinions previously held. (Google his speeches, don’t take my word for it.)
          There was a time when every child, Christian or not, was at least exposed to the teaching of our Lord.  Every morning in school, we stood to pray the Lord’s Prayer and say the Pledge of Allegiance, stating “in God we trust.”  The Ten Commandments, if not in every class room, were posted somewhere on the walls of the school.  Some schools, that I attended, even had a teacher who came in at least once a month to teach us a Bible lesson.  I grew up having a vague notion that surely everyone believed in the Bible and Jesus.  Not until I was in the sixth grade, was I aware that there were those that did not necessarily believe in Jesus, but still His teachings were held in high esteem.  Going to church, believing in God and the Bible was my experience, and also for most of my friends.  All this began to change for me in the early sixties.  I was in the ninth grade, and suddenly by the passing of a federal law, we were no longer allowed to pray in school.  This was just the beginning of a dramatic downfall in our families and the nation as a whole.  I don’t wish to turn the subject of this paper into one that is focused upon the change in our political status.  If you are interested in that, there are several papers on our website, written by my husband, that explore that topic in much greater depth.
          Let us return to our original topic of the possible meaning of the sculpture of the three monkeys and its connection to evil.  As we have walked away from God, we have walked farther into the realm and influence of evil, due to our increasing unbelief in the biblical God.  The secular world doesn’t mind if anyone believes in some kind of god.  Their agenda is just to limit, or better yet, remove all semblances of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we must never be heard praying in the name of Jesus.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light of the world.  Believers are supposed to be alike unto Him; we are supposed to become instruments of love, being His light in a dark and fallen world, to expose evil where evil exists, that God’s grace may much more abound. Additionally, through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we are meant to be the salt of the earth, acting as a preservative, to constrain, or hold back, the flood of evil into the entire world.  Christians are supposed to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, not to force others to believe, but that they might choose to believe.
          As God, the Bible, and Christians have become increasingly watered down, marginalized, and secularized, the world has become more welcoming of evil.  Heterosexual immorality, abortions, homosexuality, sin in all forms have always existed since the fall of Adam and Eve.  It is not the existence of sin that is bringing the judgment of God upon us as a nation.  At one time, if someone flaunted their sin for all to see, it was met with strong rebuke, in an effort to encourage each person to turn from sin and return to the ways of the Lord.  Encouraging one another to turn away from sin was at one time a vital function of the church.  Exposing sin, revealing our need to seek forgiveness, was never meant to be used as a means to condemn or bludgeon one another with guilt and shame, but rather to guard and protect each other from the harm that the practice of evil brings, for “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 6: 23)  However, in today’s secular world, we have practically stopped administering rebuke, reproof, and correction, for now it is frowned upon, and characterized as being judgmental, a plague that is worse than death.  The tool of correction, meant to build character and morality, has been twisted and perverted by this passive atmosphere which seeks to deny the existence of evil, and the need to take responsibility for our actions.  Therefore, as a nation we have begun passing laws which celebrate the practice of sin, and elevate sin to the status of good.  As people have come out of the shadows to openly demonstrate and flaunt the practice of sin, we no longer try to encourage them to repent and be forgiven.  Instead, we praise them for being so courageous, while the rest of us pat ourselves on the back and congratulate one another for being so tolerant.  We have created a society which is unable to discern between good and evil.  We have chosen to turn from standards set by God, preferring to create standards based upon man’s opinions, exalting and declaring through law that evil is good, and good as evil.  We have lost our moral compass and forgotten God in all our ways.
          What difference has this transformation made in my own mind about the meaning of the sculpture of the three monkeys?  I no longer see them as crying out a warning to resist the evil of the world, but rather as sinister beings that are crying out and urging all to deny that evil even exists.  The darkness of evil has so encroached upon us that we choose remove entirely the use of godly discernment and good judgment.  We have become so spiritually deaf, dumb and blind that we no longer see evil as evil, nor can we hear and perceive the difference between the truth and that which is a lie.  No longer do we see a need to put a guard before our mouth that our speech may not sin against God, and come back to harm us.  If we dare ask anyone to be more considerate about the kind of language they use, we are the ones that are accused of doing wrong and being judgmental.  If we should speak out the truth of the Bible, we are labeled as being intolerant, hate mongering bigots.     
          The church is guilty of allowing these same ungodly practices and standards to encroach upon us and even prevail within the body of Christ.  We are contaminated with the poison of not wanting to look different from the rest of the world, desiring the world’s acceptance, rather than its rejection.  As the church continues to forget God and His ways, is it any wonder that we are less willing to obey the Lord?  If we can no longer see sin as sin, how can we ever be moved to regret our sin that we may be truly sorry for it?  If we never feel sorry for our sin, we will never understand that we need our Savior.  If we can never perceive our need for our Savior, we will never ask for His forgiveness.  If we never see our need for forgiveness through faith in God, we will never be able to receive the free gift of salvation by the grace of God. If we never see our need to be born again through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will have condemned ourselves, will die in our sin, and will send ourselves to Hell.  Removal of reproof, rebuke, and correction brings forth, not just a slippery slope that leads us away from the Lord, but rather helps to create a condition that can better be described as an avalanche which leads to total destruction.    
           This present train of thought in my mind has been an ongoing endeavor to understand the realm of influence and role that rebuke, reproof, and correction are supposed to play in the life of every believer.  It is meant to help restrict the flood of evil into our lives as individual believers, the entire body of Christ, and even into the world at large.  Every time I believe I have finished with the topic, the Lord calls me back to reveal another piece of the puzzle.  Isn’t that just like Him?  Of all the books I have read and studied, the Bible is the only one that is truly worthy of being read, pondered, meditated upon, and studied again and again, preferably on a daily basis, if we desire to grow and mature in our knowledge and faith in the Lord.    
          Being close to the Lord, and being rooted and grounded in His word, go hand in hand.  Learning to truly love and obey the Lord is a life long process, not a one time experience or event.  When we are born as babies, we don’t pop out as full grown and mature human beings.  Our physical birth is only the beginning; there is much that has to be experienced, learned, and endured.  Our physical growth will be attained at some point, but spiritual maturation is a continual process as long as we have breath.  The Bible is the most important book given to mankind as spiritual food to produce spiritual growth, just as natural food aids our physical growth.   Most other books that I have read, once completed, leave me with a willingness to set it aside with an attitude of “been there, done that, and now, on to something new.”  However, the Bible can be read over and over again.  With each reading, the Holy Spirit will surprise us with a brand new jewel of wisdom and knowledge that we had not seen before.  It contains a treasure trove of goodies, like a treasure chest which has no limits of height, width, or depth.  His word leaps from the pages, right into your heart, creating a joy and peace which is unknown by the world, but made alive in the heart of every believer.  It truly does make you want to “clap your hands” and “shout unto God with the voice of triumph!” (Psalm 47:1) 
          The scriptures are the written word of God, and Jesus is the living word of God in the flesh; both are alive and filled with the transforming power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is this living power which makes the Bible unique and different from any other written work.  God’s word is just like He is.  His mercy and grace are new every morning; His faithfulness is without end. (Lam. 3: 22, 23)  It is the only book that is the true and inerrant word of God.  It is the only book that is given by God.  The men of old, who wrote it, did so as the Holy Spirit moved upon them to write His Story, to be passed down as a map or instruction book for all generations.  Each of the Lord’s scribes, or secretaries, are not conveying their own thoughts, but rather the thoughts of God, that we might know Him and His ways, be drawn unto Him, and believe in and follow, or obey, Him.  In today’s realm of technology, I suppose you could compare the work of the scribes to the function of word processors.  God downloaded the information into them, enabling them to record, distribute and pass it on to all future generations.
          Our salvation is not found through the searching of the scriptures to know them, but rather is found through faith in Jesus Christ whom the scriptures reveal to us.  Every time we are drawn to the word, we are drawn into a deeper personal relationship with God, as He pours out His Holy Spirit to be with us and in us.  It is through the work of the Holy Spirit in us that we are enabled to know the great love that God has towards each of us, as if you and I were the only persons on earth.  What an Almighty Living God we serve!
          His word is true for all generations.  If you doubt that, I ask you to read it that you may see the proof that it could be given from no other source than God Himself, who alone knows the beginning, the end, and all that is in between.  At least twenty five percent of the Bible is prophetic, telling that which is to come before it happens.  The infallible prophecies of God can not be equated with the fallible predictions of man, which may or may not come true.  The prophecies of God can be depended upon to come true one hundred percent of the time, for “God is not a man that He should lie.” (Numbers 23: 19)  One of many prophetic examples found in the word is Isaiah 53, which foreshadows the death of Jesus on the cross, hundreds of years before the event ever occurred.  No man has the ability to know all; only God has that ability.  These prophecies are scattered throughout both the Old and New Testament. 
          God is a God of order, not a god of disorder, chaos, and confusion.  It is His Holy Spirit that constrains and restricts the powers of evil that exist within the world.  Before Jesus left the realm of Heaven to come to earth in the form of man, we can read about how His Holy Spirit moved upon and spoke through the prophets to teach and guide His people.  The Word was first given to the Jew, and later through them to the gentile and into the entire world. After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended back into Heaven.  Since that moment in time, He now sends His Holy Spirit to live within “whosever” would choose to believe in Him (Jesus Christ), as Lord and Savior; thus forming a personal relationship with each believer.  It is this personal relationship which makes Christianity different from all other religions.  They depend upon man’s efforts to do enough good works to earn his own salvation; whereas, salvation through faith in Jesus depends upon the work of Christ on the Cross and the grace of God towards man. 
          As a carnal man, we only have a fallible and insufficient conscience, built within every human to guard against evil.  However, once we are born again, it is the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides and leads us into all truth, that we might be empowered to rightly discern between good and evil, equipping us to resist temptation to sin.  The journey through this life on earth, as our temporary home, is fraught with danger, for we live in a fallen world.  We are constantly warring against the desires of our flesh, the world, and the powers and principalities of the darkness of this world.  Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5: 8)  The word says that our Lord will teach our “hands to war” and our “fingers to fight.” (Psalm 144: 1)  There is always the conflict between good and evil.  Remember, before Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they knew only good.  They didn’t know evil until they rebelled in disobedience to God.  Each of us is infected with that same propensity to sin. 
          Having laid a foundation to help us understand, at least partially, what the believer is up against as we travel from this life into our eternal life with the Lord, let us look further into the role and possible purposes for rebuke, reproof, and correction within the individual believer, and within the church as a whole.  How is it to be used, and what is it supposed to produce in the heart of every believer?  First of all, Psalm 139: 23, 24 instructs us to ask the Lord: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  We should open our hearts to Him, to be corrected and even chastised as needed, if we are to become the person that He has designed and planned us to be.  In addition, He may also choose to use our brothers and sisters in Christ, and even those who do not believe in Him, to confront and rebuke us for sin in our life.  Read II Samuel ch. 11 and 12. God sent Nathan to confront King David with the sin that he thought was hidden from view.  King David could have chosen to harden His heart, but because he loved the Lord, he repented of all that he had done.  He still suffered the consequences of his actions, but he did not have to suffer the judgment of God that he rightly deserved. 
          The key to true Christian reproof is that it should never to be delivered in a self righteous, judgmental, or accusatory manner.  None of us is free of sin; therefore, none can consider himself to be a “better Christian” than anyone else.  Judgmental accusations are from the devil, for He is the accuser of the brethren, always going to the Lord like a spoiled brat tattle tail, seeking to point out our failures before the Lord, to bring us under condemnation.  Reproof and correction are meant not for our condemnation, but rather for our good that we might not fall into condemnation and bring the judgment of the Lord upon ourselves.  Conviction of sin is different from condemnation for our sins.  The latter says we are guilty and forgiveness is impossible.  Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit is that which is able to convince us of our need to recognize sin and confess it to the Lord that we may be forgiven.  God does not want anyone to die in their sinful state and go to Hell.  Hell is meant for Satan and his followers, not for man.  It is God’s delight to declare us forgiven, sanctified, and washed clean.  Not only is there forgiveness by the grace of God, but, as we are faithful to confess our sins before God, He is also faithful to remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103: 12)     
          One of the main problems today that allows the darkness to gain more and more of a foothold in the church, and promote the tolerance of evil, is the perversion and twisting of the definition of the word tolerance.  Properly used, the idea of tolerance is to be equated with the principle of “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  However, in today’s atmosphere of anti-Christian multiculturalism and secularism, the perverted and politically correct concept of tolerance asserts that all who refuse to condone and accept sin are now defined as intolerant bigots.   The secular world seeks to be inclusive of all religions, as if all are of equal value.  Christians must not bow down to this deception of politically correct thinking.  As I previously stated, recognition and confession of sin is a vital and necessary key, if we are to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  One must be able to see his sin in order to understand his need for our Savior, who is the only God that can grant forgiveness of sin.  There is no remission of sin, except through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, because He was all God in the form of man, is the only one that led a sinless life; thus He is the only one that is qualified to die and pay the sin debt that we owed. 
          Assuming that all religions and gods are equal is the same as idolatry in the sight of God.   As Christians, we are to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having no other gods before Him. (Deut. 5:7)  The secular world’s agenda is characterized by the following: the promotion of multiculturalism, secularism, and inclusiveness of all religions; the belief that all gods are of equal value; encouragement for all religions to worship together; the acceptance of the idea that there are many paths to God, and the belief that there are no absolutes for right and wrong.
          Isn’t it ironic?  Christians are tolerant of those who want to believe differently than we do.  Whereas, those who profess to be so tolerant are tolerant of everything, and everyone, except of those who believe that there is only one true God, and only one path to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  As a result, we are rapidly progressing towards a point in time in America, when Christians will be both persecuted and possibly slaughtered because they refuse to believe in any other gods other than the Lord God Jehovah, the one true and living God.  This move to eradicate all Jews and Christians from the face of the earth is once again being displayed through the genocide being carried out in the Middle East.    
          Acknowledgment and confession of sin go hand in hand with receiving Christ as your Savior.  We can not, and must not turn a blind eye to evil where evil exists.  Being saved by grace means that you are saved from enslavement to sin; it does not mean that you are saved that you may sin all the more.  Because of the false definition of tolerance, we are encouraged to believe that there are no absolutes for right and wrong, but that all is relative to what a society may decide is good and acceptable, instead of trusting in God’s standards of right and wrong.  His word is established, it does not change; thereby making it dependable, trustworthy and true for all generations.  Believing that right and wrong is relative to standards set by mans’ opinion, creates standards which are always unpredictable; thereby making them neither dependable nor trustworthy, but changeable from place to place, moment to moment, and person to person.  No wonder one of the most frequent statements we hear is, “I used to believe this, but now my thinking has evolved, so now I believe thus and so.”             Today, any effort to confront sin through godly judgment and discernment between good and evil, based upon the word of God, is often met with the declaration, “Judge not lest ye be judged!  In this manner, they seek to silence all voices that would expose sin as sin.  Remember, according to today’s new and perverted definition of tolerance, we are supposed to condone and accept sin, not acknowledge and confess sin as sin.  As the voice of correction is silenced, the encroachment of the darkness will spread and become darker and darker.  The silencers of the voice of God, which would have alerted us to our need for correction, now work for the purpose of presenting the idea that, not only will God not see our sin, but there is no God to declare what sin is.  Therefore, according to this new idea of tolerance, we should just live life with the following attitude: “And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years.  Take life easy and eat, drink, and be merry’.” (Luke 12: 19)  In other words, live a self centered life with no regard for God; do what pleases yourself, as if this temporary life is all that matters, for tomorrow you may die. 
          Confronting sin is sometimes seen a criticism.  We must not automatically discard criticism under the presumption that it is mean- spirited, or given with the intent to judge, condemn, and bring harm to us.  That is what the secular world would have us think.  Remember it is not the pointing out of sin in our life that we are condemned by, but rather the fact that we refuse to acknowledge the existence of sin, or the need for our Savior.  It is not our act of sin that condemns us, but rather our choice not the receive Jesus Christ, His forgiveness, and His plan for our salvation.  By our own choice to go our own way without Him, we have condemned ourselves to be destined for Hell. 
          Whether criticism is given in a positive or negative manner is not of importance.  More important is our decision to at least take it under consideration.  It can be used to provoke thought, prayer, and the action to seek the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It may possibly be used as a tool from the Lord to help us see sin, confess sin, take responsibility for our actions, and instruct us in how we need to change for the better.  Regardless of the manner of delivery of the message, or the intent of the messenger, might it not be far more advantageous for us to take the matter before the Lord that He may reveal to us how it could best be used to work for our good, and not for our harm? 
          Our biggest problem in this situation is not only deception caused by the redefining of tolerance by the secular world, but also our own pride, which often desires to deny the fact that maybe we are not as perfect as we thought we were.  Unfortunately, we are not always open to being confronted with and dealing with the evil within.  Instead, we are more prone to simply tolerate it, refusing to acknowledge it or take responsibility for its existence.  It seems we are, more often than not, diligently intent upon making excuses for ourselves, choosing to think that we have a right to hold on  to the practice of our “pet sins,” choosing to love ourselves more than we love God.   
          If only we would all choose to repent and ask for forgiveness of sin, as King David did when Nathan was used of God to confront him with the sin in his life.  Because he did truly love the Lord, he was open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who does not condemn us of sin, but will prick our heart to convict us of sin, that we may be convinced to turn our hearts back to God.  The Holy Spirit is always there to prepare the heart, mind, and spirit of both the one who is to give the correction, and the one who needs to receive it, just as He did for both Nathan and King David.  All must be done in the spirit of the love of the Lord, without malice, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Understanding that all have fallen short of the mark, we should all the more have compassion and understanding for one another as we endeavor to strive against sin in our life.  None of us can assume that there is any form of sin that could not tempt us.  If we do, we are deceiving ourselves and providing for our own downfall through pride.  Be assured, if Satan perceives a weakness in us, he will use that very thing to try to attack and destroy us.  All the more reason to put on the full armor of God, that we may be equipped to stand against sin, no matter what form it takes.  When one of us falls by the way side, but then truly desires to give up the practice of sin and seeks to be forgiven, we should forgive them just as we have been forgiven, and accept him back into the fold with loving arms.
          In the body of Christ, whether we are on the giving or receiving end of correction, which may often be perceived as criticism, I reiterate, we must be careful not to deliver it as condemnation; lest we be guilty of neglecting the grace of God which is poured out upon all who seek the Lord, to know and serve Him.  Neither is there any sin, except the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, which can not be forgiven, if we are willing to confess our sins and ask the Lord’s forgiveness.  Knowing our human frailties, we should all the more be willing to encourage and help one another to gain victory over sin.  For sure, none of us is righteous, for our righteousness is as filthy rags when compared to God’s standards of righteousness.  The righteousness which redeems and reconciles us to God is that which has been imparted, or given to us, through faith in Jesus Christ.  All that we have that has eternal value is that which we have received from our Lord.  All is due to the mercy and grace of God, and is nothing that we could ever earn through our own works. 
          If we are to strive to be holy, as the Lord is holy, we must be willing to be confronted with sin, and deal with it, when sin exists.  Cooperate with the Holy Spirit by contributing your efforts to acknowledge sin, and willingness to work diligently to remove sin from your life.  Don’t give place to the devil by tolerating evil.  If your help and encouragement is needed by your brother or sister in Christ, or one who is seeking to know the Lord, we must be willing to be of help, but do not be a hindrance by condoning or accepting sin in order to try to make another feel good about himself, or comfortable with the practice of sin in his life.  That is a lying and deceiving spirit which only contributes to the downfall and destruction of the one you are supposed to be helping.  It is the fair weather friend that is willing to tell you what you want to hear, but unwilling to tell you what you need to hear.  Demonstrate love and compassion, not the sloppy kind of sentimentality and emotionalism that is often mixed with flattery, which tries to deny the existence of sin and seeks to deliver a message of “you’re okay, and I’m okay.”  Do you really want to see that person go further and further down the drain?  However, we must also remember, once we have done our best to help them, but they do not want to be helped, we must let go, and let them go their own way.  Maybe, when they hit rock bottom, they will realize what they have lost, and want to return to God and His ways.        
          As a young mother, after the birth of my third baby, I attended a God centered parenting conference.  I wish I had attended something similar to that far earlier, and on a continual basis to learn more of God’s parenting principles and skills, and how to apply them more diligently and consistently.  With a husband who had to be away much of the time, I often had to function as a single parent.  I’m not seeking to place blame or make excuses for my errors, but rather stating the facts of our situation.  My husband was doing all that he could to provide for his family the best way he knew how.  When he was home, he was a great Dad and Husband.  No person(s) is ever a perfect parent, but if we were more informed of God’s methods, and diligent to practice them, we may have found that we could have had more success in creating a more stable home, in better equipping our children for life, and in raising them under the nurture and admonition of the Lord in a more competent manner. 
          In the parenting class which I spoke of, I learned two principles that stand out in my mind.  I have to admit that I was not always successful in applying them, but I do believe that I did improve, at least to some extent.  The first one was, do not discipline in anger. Secondly, we should be careful not to let discipline and correction be contaminated by a love of self over love for the one that is in need of correction. All too often, we are more intent upon being friends with our children, instead of being intent upon administering correction properly, whether or not they like it or us.  In so doing, we abdicate our responsibility to take authority over them for their own good.  What is more important for their good, acting out of love for them, or acting out of love for ourselves?  For instance, if the child needs correction and discipline, do we choose to administer little of no discipline because, either consciously or unconsciously, we are too busy reflecting on how disagreeable it felt to us when we were rebuked or corrected as a child?  If that is the case, we must ask ourselves again, who are we truly loving, our children or ourselves?  As a parent, we must not focus on whether our children liked us or not, but rather upon what will help them develop into a child with honesty, integrity, respect for others, and the love of the Lord.  In addition, being consistent is of vital importance.  If we administer discipline, but then immediately counteract our own measures by trying to rescue them from suffering the consequences for their bad behavior, we will have effectively wiped out all hope of change for the better, which we had originally hoped to produce in the child.  We will have entirely undermined our own efforts, or the efforts of our spouse.  The child will never learn to recognize the wrong that he has done, nor will he ever regret the harm that he has done to himself or others.  We will have been successful in raising a child who is completely self centered, void of any idea of self discipline, decency, or care for the feelings of anyone besides himself.  Is that really the condition that we want to produce within our child?  Will that equip him to live a satisfying life with others, or will we have succeeded in preparing them for a life that can only be lived out in the confines of a jail?
          What has this parenting situation got to do with the role and purpose of administering proper correction and rebuke to ourselves and to one another in the body of Christ?  God says He chastises His children for their good, not for their harm.  He even says that if he abdicates His responsibility to exercise His authority over us, He will not have acted in love towards His children, but rather he has treated them as if they were bastards, and none of His own. (Hebrews 12: 8)
          Does not the Word tell us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength?  Does it not say that we are to have no other gods before Him?  Does it not say that He has loved us first, so much so that He was willing to send His very own Son to die for us that through Him (Christ), whosoever would believe might have eternal life?  Yes, we are saved by the grace of God.  He has received us “as we are,” but He does not intend to leave us as we are.  People are always ready to gobble up all the ideas of how much He loves us, and how He’s going to shower us with blessings. However, the minute He wants to point out our need to take responsibility for our sin and sinful actions, and our need to turn away from sin, we respond loudly and defiantly, “JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED!” For our own good, He wants to expose our sin to us.  Again, what do we do?  We stick our fingers in our ears like rebellious spoiled brats, not wanting to hear His rebuke or warnings of consequences for our sinful and disobedient behavior. We don’t want to hear of  the coming judgment that we will suffer, if we refuse to listen and turn from our wicked ways.  Yes, He does choose to tutor and train us through His word and His Holy Spirit.  But He has also given us pastors, teachers, brothers and sisters in Christ, and sometimes even worldly people, to act as His instruments of love to turn us away from evil, to correct us for our good, and not for our harm.   
          Somehow, we have twisted and turned everything upside down.  We seem to have lost the understanding that true love and respect towards Him should first and foremost be characterized by our demonstration of total submission and obedience unto Him, in thought, word, and deed.  If we were more diligent to listen to Him, we might not need to be subjected to giving or receiving correction and rebuke from one another.  However, when we seem to continually ignore Him, do we truly want Him, and others, to care so little that they would be unwilling to come to us in the love of the Lord, to remind us that we are headed in the wrong direction which will surely bring us harm?  I have this request of Him, “Lord, if I get that stubborn, throw the book at me; do what ever it takes to get me to turn around and come back to you!” 
          If we are truly rooted and grounded in the word of the Lord, why does it seem that we are increasingly less willing to agree with and be obedient to God, and more willing to agree with the secular world and disagree with the absolute truth of the word of God?  By those standards, who are we loving more, ourselves or God?  Who are we putting first, ourselves or God?  Eli, in I Samuel chapters 2 and 3, demonstrates the horrendous results of not acting in love towards His sons.  Proper discipline and correction should help the one who receives it to not only be sorry for his disobedience, but also influence him enough that he would do all that he could to change and turn away from the wrong (sin) that he is doing.  Eli failed to discipline his children; they neither felt sorry for their behavior, nor did they change their behavior.  Because Eli abdicated his responsibility, he aided in sending them in the direction of Hell.  Christians today, with respect to their own lives and our brothers and sisters in Christ, are less and less willing to be that instrument to act in love towards one another, administering and receiving rebuke and correction when it is meant for our own well being.  We have more fear of not being accepted by the world than we do of not being accepted in the sight of the Lord.  With this “I’m okay; you’re okay,” “evil doesn’t exist” attitude, we seem to be blind to what we are doing to ourselves and one another, or perhaps we have slipped more into the pit of “I don’t care, and I did it MY way!”  Whatever the cause or reason, it can all be reduced to this fact; we refuse to act in true love towards God, or in true love towards one another.
          God forbid that we should continue to walk farther away from God and His ways.  God forbid that we continue to allow ourselves to be deceived by the secular mentality that emotional sentimentality and condoning and acceptance of sin is the true demonstration of love towards one another.  God help us if we do not return our hearts to true obedience, acting in love first towards the Lord, not esteeming ourselves greater than Him.  We must be diligent to attain and retain godly wisdom and knowledge, godly discernment and judgment, understanding that tolerance and true love for God and one another is found in “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.”  The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, not to condone or accept it. (Prov. 8: 13) 
          I ask you to read I Cor. Ch. 5. It gives an example of the proper order for exercising godly chastisement when dealing with disobedience and the practice of sin within the body of Christ.  I can testify personally of many times that I have received rebuke and correction which worked for my own good.  Yes, it was hardly ever pleasant at the time.  Yes, I may have rejected it for a period of time.  But no matter who, what, or how it was given unto me, I can honestly say that I owe a debt of gratitude to God for correction, given unto me through the power of His Spirit and word.  I am also ever thankful for those who were willing to be used by Him for my good.  Administering rebuke and correction to another is not an easy thing to do. Because they chose to be obedient unto Him, and cared, and loved me enough to point out the sin in my life, I was given numerous opportunities in my life to “sorrow unto repentance,” seek forgiveness, and turn from my wicked (sinful) ways.  I’ll admit it didn’t always seem as if the correction was delivered in the spirit of love.  Even so, it can still present the opportunity to “test the spirits” to see if some truth may be contained and worthy of consideration.  We don’t have to wallow in guilt or condemnation, but we do have to see sin in order to be moved to ask for forgiveness, and be willing to seek God to help us change for the better.  If we are only sorry that we “got caught in sin”, but do not recognize sin as sin and seek forgiveness, we will continue in the practice of it, becoming an increasingly hard hearted and rebellious person(s), till we pass the point of no return, no longer able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, or respond to Him. 
          I refer you to a few of the scriptures which have often spoken so clearly to my heart, to remind me of the best attitude to have towards criticism, chastisement, correction, reproof and rebuke.   I encourage each of us not to reject His correction when it comes, but let it perform that good work in us that it was meant to do.  Let the word of the Lord minister His truth into our lives and transform each of us into the image of Christ.

If it were not possible for us to be deceived, He would not have said:
Galatians 6: 7
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
I John 4:1
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God.”

God is not, and never will be, tolerant of false gods. He regards those who think that He is only one of many gods as idolaters. (II Kings 17: 6-35)  The Apostle Paul pronounced a curse upon those who pervert the gospel. (I Cor. 5: 1-13; Gal. 1: 6-9)  If we Christians join with other religions to worship together as encouraged by multiculturalists, we will “give the appearance of evil,” as if we condone evil by supporting or tolerating their falsehoods.  To do so, is not acting in love towards God, but would be behaving entirely contrary to the word of God. 

Speaking about Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4: 10) who was crucified, dead, and buried, and whom God raised from the dead, it is written:
Acts 4: 12
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Correction and reproof must be important in the sight of God else He would not have said this concerning the scriptures:
II Tim. 3: 16-17
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Herein resides both true hope and change:
Romans 5: 8 – 21; 6: 1 - 14  
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Moreover the law entered, that the offence may abound.  But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: For in that He dies, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Finally, it is written: [This is the one that has been used time and again to minister God’s love and correction to my heart, to help me to understand that reproof, rebuke, and correction can be one of God’s most valuable tools, to work for my good, and not for my harm.  I pray that it may do the same for you!]
Psalm 141: 3-5 (KJV)
“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.  Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice evil works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.  Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer shall yet be in their calamities.” [“for my prayer will still be against the deeds of the evil doers.” (NIV]

          Be not spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind as the three monkeys who refuse to recognize that evil exists.  They say, “I see no evil. I hear no evil.  There’s no need for change here.  There’s no need of a Savior here.  I will continue to think, speak, and act in any evil manner that I want to.  Why should I put a guard before my mouth?  I choose to perceive evil as good, and proclaim good to be evil.  Speak no word of rebuke or correction unto me.  Nothing shall have authority over me!”  Doesn’t that sound much like the child who is brought up in an atmosphere of permissiveness, in which the parents refuse to administer godly rebuke and correction, thus producing a child void of discernment between good and evil, good judgment, self discipline and love for the Lord and His ways?  By refusing to give or receive correction, aren’t we also being like the parent who was more concerned about whether he is perceived as being likeable, rather than being perceived as one who has acted out of love towards God and one another? Without the exercise of godly rebuke and correction aren’t we, the church, creating false Christians who are only equipped and prepared to live eternal life in the forever prison of Hell?

          God forbid, let our hearts not be hardened towards God.  Silence not the voice of reproof, rebuke, and correction.  If the bell, meant as a signal to warn of danger, is never rung, how can we heed the sound of the alarm that informs of the need to change?  How can we be made aware of the truth which may be contained therein, to restrain or prevent impending doom that stems from a rebellious and hardened heart?   Choose not to declare all criticism, reproof, and correction as if it is judgmental hate speech, but rather choose to reflect upon it as if it is an “oil” upon your head, meant as a “kindness,” and as an opportunity to be changed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ our Savior, by the washing of the word through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Be not deceived by the redefining of the word tolerant, which would have you condone and accept sin.  Step into the light of the Living Word, and be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let us endeavor to return to the godly view that we must open our eyes to see our sin as sin, open our ears to hear the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of sin and convinces us to turn back to Him.  Let us determine to ask the Lord to put a guard before our mouths that we might not speak evil, which is a sin against God, and brings harm upon ourselves and others.     If you have not already done so, ask Jesus to come into your heart and receive Him as your Lord and Savior.  Praise the Lord, for He has done great things!  What He’s done for others, He will do for you.


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