"Valuing Rebuke" - an article found in a Wisdom's Gate publication called "An Encouraging Word"

Valuing Rebuke

   Rebuke is not very easy to receive, is it? I don't like rebuke.  I mean, I really don't like rebuke.  However, I've been studying a little about rebuke lately, and I've seen that there are basically only two responses to rebuke.  Proverbs tells us the wise man values rebuke, while the fool rejects reproof (see Proverbs 12:15 and Proverbs 10:17).  As God's children, the differences are not only in wisdom versus foolishness, but in what is after the Spirit of God, and what is after the flesh.  I want to walk in the way of the Spirit of God, in the way of wisdom.  Studying what the Scriptures teach about esteeming reproof has opened my eyes to see more clearly how my response is really a choice.  I so easily fall into the wrong choice, and have needed to go before the Lord in repentance.  I'm praying that the Lord will have mercy on me to help me turn from my natural way of responding to rebuke, to responding in a way pleasing to HIM.  I'm very much in the process, and what I am here sharing is an invitation to join me in the process of valuing rebuke.

    Receiving, much less loving, rebuke goes completely against the grain of the natural sinfulness of our hearts.  When someone has a word of rebuke for us, something rises up within us to protect our pride.  It is hard to "stoop" to a rebuke because it challenges something we hold dear - SELF.  A rebuke, no matter how small, comes at the idol of self and whacks at its very foundation.  A rebuke seems to say to SELF, "You don't know every-thing, and in fact, here is an area you need to look into!  You don't have everything as together as you think."

    We have two opinions when a rebuke is given to us: we can view it as a curse, or as a blessing.  As long as we're walking with God, until we learn to accept rebuke and walk in humility, we're going to keep on getting it, so we might as well learn to value rebuke!

Is a Rebuke A Curse?

   If we view a rebuke as a curse, we are actually FOOLS.  (Proverbs 12:1b)  But that's just exactly what comes easy!  We tend to want to stop up our ears and go through an emotional roller coaster.  At first we feel hurt and wounded, then in despair, then angry, then set out a full-blown attack at point the finger somewhere else.  We then promptly ignore the rebuke, finding some comfort in the naysaying of foolish friends and stay far, far away from the person who gave the rebuke.  Oh, yes, we'll remember it every time that subject comes up and use the opportunity to steam a little more!

   And all of these are characteristics of walking in the Spirit, right?!  Wrong!

   The Scriptures command us to WALK in the Spirit: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)  It is a command; it is something we're supposed to obey.  Walking in the Spirit is not just "being" - it is a mixture of "being filled" and "walking in" - it is both being and obeying.

   When we view a rebuke and its fundamental "attack" on our pride as a curse, our responses come from the flesh.

Is Rebuke A Blessing?

   Full change of perspective means not only a mental change, but also an actual obedient receiving of a rebuke.  Our response is the difference between being a fool and one who is wise.  We would all love to be wise, wouldn't we?  Here is a detailed description of how we can walk as a wise person:  love rebuke.  (Proverbs 9:8)

   Since refusing rebuke comes from protection of self, a good bath in humility is just what we need.  God has such marvelous plans for HIS Children.  HE sees how needy we are.  HE sees how beautifully we could fit in the purpose for which we were created if we would just give HIM ourselves to mould.  It is a mercy that God Almighty is willing to shape, change, and fashion us into people after HIS own likeness, but we have to be willing to cooperate as well.  We must take off our armor and allow our very hearts to be exposed to HIS discipline. 

    The question we need to ask is, "How much do I really want to change?  How important is it to me to be fashioned into Christ's likeness?"  Is it worth saying "no" to and crucifying the flesh?  Is it so important and desired that you would do anything, or give up anything to become the person God wants to make you?  Is there a cost too great for the privilege of walking in discipleship with God?

Responses Of The Flesh Versus
Responses Of The Spirit

   One of the first fleshly responses to rebuke is self-justification.  When a rebuke comes and puts a dent into our idol of self, our flesh wants to rise up and prove the error of the rebuke.  Of COURSE we just couldn't be wrong!  Perhaps in response to a rebuke an account will need to be given, yet our attitude should not be self-preservation, but an ardent desire to walk in righteousness - shown wrong if that is the way of truth.

   But what is the response of the Spirit to rebuke?  There can be no selfish motives in a response guided by the Holy Spirit.  Serving self isn't what matters when we're walking in the Spirit - serving and following Christ is.  our hearts should be so eager to be conformed into the likeness of Christ that we are willing to receive any help that will accomplish that purpose.  "Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness.  And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it." (Psalms 141:5,NKJV)

   Another response of the flesh is to turn and attack the person giving the rebuke.  (Proverbs 9:8)  Responding with attacking shows where our hearts are.  If we can just make this other person look worse, then we won't look so bad.  We're quite content to point out that, while this person is so intent on the miniscule speck in our eye, they really ought to deal with the log in their own eye.  This attitude is part of the lie of comparing ourselves among ourselves instead of to Christ.  It is a MERCY to be told "you're wrong!"   It isn't a curse.  Remember, if our goal is to grow in Christ and walk in HIS ways, it won't  matter to us how the truth comes to us.  The response of the Spirit is gratefulness for the Lord bringing to our attention our need for change.  "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent."  (Rev. 3:19, NIV)

   The flesh also responds to rebuke by feeling all hurt and wounded. Ouch!  That hurts to even think about!  It is so easy to take up an offense before even realizing it.  But is that really a work of the Spirit? 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 goes into great detail about the differences of a worldly sorrow versus Godly sorrow.  I'd encourage you to read and study this passage on your own.  When we received rebuke with an attitude of "I'm hurt; that wounded me," we're still focusing on self.  We're still living in a paradigm that doesn't admit to any personal need for conforming to Christ.  Basically, we take the rebuke as a front to our persons, instead of a merciful felp lin the path of righteousness.  Rather, we should respond as the Corinthians responded to Paul's rebuke.  Paul wrote of the sorrow they experienced, but it wasn't a sorrow of the world - an in-turned sorrow - that leads to death.  It was the Godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

    Yet another fleshly response to reproof is ignoring counsel and rebuke.  "Mockers don't love those who rebuke them, so they stay away from the wise."  (Prov. 15:12, NLT)  "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray." (Proverbs 10:17)  Proverbs 17:10 also speaks to the wisdom of valuing rebuke; "A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool."

    A Spirit-led response to reproof takes heed.  It is not interested in preserving self, but in walking in truth.  Proverbs 15:31-32 again speaks of the wise person listening to life-giving reproof.  Then verse 33 wraps it up with this;  "The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom and before honor comes humility."  Humility must come first in our response to reproof.

   "When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee,

I  only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

   Proverbs 9:7-8 describes further differences between the foolish and the wise.  "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you."  The foolish way to respond is to hate the one who gave the rebuke.  Self-protection can come pretty quick and desire to "get back" at whoever gave the rebuke.  But the way of the Spirit is to receive a rebuke with all humility, looking at it to see if the Lord is behind it.  The wise person will love the person giving the rebuke because of it!  Our response should be gratefulness for that person loving us enough to say something.  Certainly some rebukes are given as venom; however, we are still obligated to see if the Lord is speaking to us through that rebuke.  Remember, God chose to use a donkey once to gain the attention of Balaam.  HE might use an unbeliever or a stinging rebuke to get our attention.  My point is, the Proverbs say that a wise man heeds rebuke and loves the person giving it.  We need to be grateful and humbly listen to rebuke.

    Still another response of the flesh is to take reproof and go into despair over it.  This person partially sees the truth behind the reproof, but just feels too hopeless to overcome and change.  Other friends are called on for "encouragement" in propping up self (I'm not so bad, am I?)  This response is still looking to self to overcome instead of Christ.  It is looking to flattery for self-esteem instead of plunging into the true reality of who we are AND embracing death to self that Christ might live through us.

    One thing I do want to mention is that, even in valuing rebuke, not every rebuke given is from the Lord.  We need to be daily walking with God so that we're sensitive enough to HIM to recognize HIM in any rebuke that comes to us.  The wisdom of loving rebuke isn't in conforming to a person, but to the Lord through a rebuke.  It is the humility that teaches us how to be mouldable to the Potter.  It is our duty when rebuke comes our way to take it before the Lord - do we see HIM in it?  Is this something HE is directing?

   I pray that the next time a reproof or rebuke comes to you, you'll stop and pray about your response.  The choice is up to you whether you'll respond in a say after the flesh or the way of the Spirit.  Which do you yearn for more?  Do you desire to uphold your image of self, or walk in the path of humility and growth?  Proverbs 29:1 describes the terrible ending if we continue rejecting reproof::  "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy."  How awful to be "broken beyond remedy"!  Where is the life in that?  Where is the joy and beauty?  If we respond to reproof in a pattern after the flesh, we'll reap hay, stubble, and wood, missing out on the curious, beautiful, refining process Yahweh would work in our hearts if we will yield.

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"When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie; My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.  The flame shall not hurt thee.  I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."  (From Rippon's Selection of Hymns, 1787)

This Article, Valuing Rebuke is by Brook Wayne.  Brook is the wife of Israel Wayne.  They are the parents of two children.  Brook delights in her calling as a wife and mother and enjoys keeping a home for her family.  This article was found in Issue #40 of "An Encouraging Word" published by Wisdom's Gate copyrighted 2002 All Rights Reserved 

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An Encouraging Word is published quarterly for Christian Ladies by WISDOM'S GATE.  The subscription price is $16.00 per year for United States subscriptions.  $22.00/yr. Canadian.  $28.00/yr. Foreign.

Reprinted with permission from An Encouraging Word issue #40. 
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The office of publication is:  Wisdom's Gate, P.O. Box 374, Covert, MI 49043 USA

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