************ Sermon on Proverbs 28:23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 11, 1998
Proverbs 12:1; 15:31; 25:12; 27:5-6; 28:23
"Admonish One Another"
There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man didn't want to kill one of his own sheep or cattle in order to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the lamb that belonged to the poor man and used it for his visitor.This is the story that the prophet Nathan said to King David (2 Sam 12:1-4). When David heard the story he burned with anger against the injustice of the rich man. David declared that the rich man deserved to die. He also declared that the rich man must pay for the lamb four times over. Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! ... You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own" (2 Sam 12:7,9).
I am sure you know this story too – a story about the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul:
There was a time when Peter used to eat with the Gentiles. But when certain men came from James, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles. Other Jewish Christians, including Barnabas, joined Peter in separating themselves from the Gentiles.When the Apostle Paul heard about this he said something to Peter about not acting in line with the truth of the gospel (cf Galatians 2:11-21).
What do Nathan and Paul have in common? They were willing to admonish. According to Scripture this is something we all should be willing to do for one another as part of the fellowship of believers gathered together by the death and resurrection of Christ:
(Col 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom ...
Fellowship among Christians takes many different forms. In what we know as the "one another" passages" the Bible tells us what we are called to do for "one another" within the fellowship of believers. There are over fifty such passages in the New Testament. Let me highlight just some of them:
Love one another Jn 13:34-35, Gal 5:14
Encourage one another Heb 3:13; 10:24-25
Be devoted to one another Rom 12:10
Build up one another Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11
Be kind to one another 1 Thess 5:15
Accept one another Rom 15:7
Serve one another Gal 5:13
Have concern for one another 1 Cor 12:25
Confess your sins to one another Jm 5:16
Forgive one another Eph 4:32
Pray for one another Jm 5:16
Don't judge one another Rom 14:13
Don't slander one another Jm 4:11
All of this is part of our fellowship with one another as part of Christ's body because He died and arose. But I want to tell you this morning that there is no genuine fellowship if we do not also deal constructively and lovingly with those caught up in sin. That's why – like Nathan and Paul – we are also called to "admonish one another."
I Correcting Life, Doctrine, or Performance of Duties
A The Greek word for admonish means "to set right," "to have a corrective influence on someone." To admonish is to confront a believer who has failed in one of three ways.
The first failure is that of failing to live up to God's Word in terms of life and lifestyle. Of course, we all fail in this area for none of us are perfect. However, when a believer consistently fails to live out God's commands, other believers need to confront that sister or brother with their concern.
This confrontation, of course, requires discernment. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus lets us know that we cannot admonish a sister or brother unless and until we first discern our own sins and failings:
(Mt 7:3-4) Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (4) How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?This requires that you always admonish with humility, realizing that except for the grace of God it could be you who are being admonished. We also need to discern whether the failing is properly a sin or merely a difference in personality or upbringing or lifestyle. We need to discern whether the sister or brother sinned or merely made a mistake. We need to discern whether we are the right person to do the confronting. We need to discern whether we are responding out of irritation at our sister or brother or are motivated by love and concern.
B The second failure is that of failing to live up to God's Word in terms of doctrine. When a believer fails to hold fast the doctrines laid down in God's inspired Word they need to be admonished.
Again, discernment is required. We need to discern whether the failing is properly a sin or merely a difference in political or philosophical perspective. We need to discern whether the failing is a matter of genuine importance or something Paul considers inconsequential (see Romans 14 & 15). For instance, to deny the divinity of Jesus – as the Jehovah's Witnesses do – strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith and cannot be tolerated and any believer heading in this direction needs to be swiftly admonished. On the other hand, to have a pre-millennial viewpoint is not a matter of grave importance and those holding this position can be admonished – but only gently and softly. And, we need to discern whether the admonishment is being done in love.
C The third failure has to do with tasks and responsibilities. When a believer fails to function diligently and capably in a position entrusted to her or him, she or he needs loving criticism. If Mark Rip or I, for instance, fail to do our duties or do our duties poorly, we need to be admonished. If an elder or deacon neglects their office, he needs to be admonished. If a Bible Study leader or Church School teacher or Youth leader fails to properly prepare their lessons, she or he needs to be admonished. If an usher or organist or pianist keeps flubbing it, she or he needs to be gently reproved.
Again, discernment is required. We need to discern whether the problem is the person's performance or unrealistic expectations. We need to discern whether the problem is a difference in personalities and approach or whether it really is the fulfillment of duties. And, we need to discern whether the criticism is being done out of love for the Lord and His body, the church.
D I want you to notice that the admonition the Bible calls for only applies to those within the church. Christians admonish only those within the fellowship of believers. Our concern, first of all, is not with those outside of the church. Paul said to the Corinthians:
(1 Cor 5:12-13) What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (13) God will judge those outside.This is not to say that Christians should not speak up when an unbeliever's behavior is harming others. But, technically speaking, this is not the same as Christian admonition. When we do talk to unbelievers, we have to avoid any trace of a "holier than thou" attitude. And we have to keep in mind that we cannot expect Christian behavior from those who do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Within the fellowship of believers we are to admonish one another.
II A Hard Thing to Do
A It is not easy to admonish one another, is it? In fact, it is a hard and very difficult thing to do. Personally, I dread doing it. The very thought of admonishing someone makes me uptight and jittery and causes me to break out in a cold sweat. For this reason, most Christians avoid doing it.
When asked, our number one reason for not admonishing someone is to avoid hurting them and those close to them. Actually, the person we don't want to hurt is ourselves. We don't want to risk rejection and broken relationships. We don't want to be considered a blabber-mouth or a busy-body.
B So what do we usually do? Instead of admonishing someone, we tend to do one of three things. First, we ask someone else – like the pastor or the elders – to talk to the person. People have tried to do that to me more than once since I have been in the ministry. And, I know people try this with the elders too. I want you to know, congregation, that you cannot pass this off to others unless you first talk to the brother or sister whose behavior or theology or job performance offends you (cf Mt 18:15).
Second, instead of admonishing someone we talk about them behind their backs. Rather then confront them directly, we talk about them and grumble about them to others. This kind of grumbling and complaining not only can be very damaging, it is also wrong (cf James 5:9).
Third, instead of admonishing someone we keep quiet about their sin, or theology, or job-performance. "Don't rock the boat," seems to be the philosophy behind this approach.
III Tough Love
A Though the task of admonishing another believer is not pleasant, it is necessary. The Bible commands us to do it – and the price of not doing it is high. Listen to these words from James:
(James 5:19-20) My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, (20) remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.Do you see what is at stake if you do not admonish a sister or brother in the Lord for error in life or doctrine? What is at stake is their very salvation. What is at stake is forgiveness. What is at stake is a life that is pleasing to God. Nothing can be more cruel than to leave someone in their sin. And, nothing can be more compassionate and loving than to call a sister or brother back from the path of sin. If you truly love and care for someone than you take them aside and point out the error of their life or doctrine or job performance so that they can live a God and Christ-glorifying life.
B When you rebuke someone out of love and with compassion and humility they usually sense that you are willing to risk rejection and broken relationships for their good. They will come to the conclusion that what you are practicing is tough love. Eventually they will reach the point where they will thank you for your love. That's one of the things that our text has in mind:
(Prov 28:23) He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.
C You need to remember the goal. The goal is not to take a delight in discovering and pointing out the failings of others. The goal is to "present everyone perfect in Christ" (Col 1:28). You see, Christ died for us and bought us with His blood so that we would be for Him a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (cf 1 Peter 2:9). We don't do this if we are left in sin. God, in other words, uses the fellowship of believers to admonish us so that we can reach the goal of presenting "everyone perfect in Christ."
IV Submit to Admonition
A I mentioned earlier than one of the toughest things to do is to admonish someone. Do you know something that is just as tough? That is to submit to being admonished.
What usually happens when someone admonishes you? You usually resent it. You may respond defensively and with anger. You may complain to others about the person who tried to be a sister or a brother to you. Many parents experience this resentment when they try to admonish teenagers and adult singles living at home.
B Scripture speaks to both sides of the equation. Within the fellowship of believers we not only must admonish one another, but we must also submit to be admonished. Listen to these verses:
(Prov 12:1) Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.According to Scripture we are wise to submit to admonition. We are stupid if we do not. Here is an example from the world:
(Prov 15:31) He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.
(Prov 25:12) Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear.
Jay Leno's first encounter with the man he would eventually replace was less than auspicious. "You seem like a very funny young man," Johnny Carson told him after catching his act at The Comedy Store. "But you don't have enough jokes." Leno was devastated. He recalls:
When I watched the Carson show I saw him do 15 or 20 jokes. I realized I'd been doing only three and relying on clowning and gestures for the rest of the laughs. I resented what Johnny had said, but I took it to heart and began honing my material.
A few years later, Carson asked me on his show. I'll always be grateful to him for giving me real advice -- hard as it seemed at the time.
Teenagers who are wise submit to the admonition of their parents. Church members who are wise submit to the admonition of the elders and deacons and pastor. Pastors who are wise submit to the admonition of the Council.
One of the biggest mistakes we can do as a fellowship of believers in Christ Who died and arose is to not hold each other accountable when we fail. So Scripture tells us to admonish one another. And, it tells us to submit to such admonition. We must do both so that someday "we may present everyone perfect in Christ."
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