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About this series
Relationships Under Pressure
Keeping it Together When the World's Falling Apart
In this series, Chip takes a biblical look at some of the many reasons why even our best and closest relationships suffer hard times. He addresses topics like why we fight with those we love, why we all struggle with anger, how to resolve inevitable conflict, that the only person I can genuinely control is me, and finally, that the art of speaking the truth in love is a gift - and goes a long way toward building great relationships that last. This series will help you understand the beauty of grace in the context of a world full of selfish, broken, petty people - including you! So, join Chip and get on the solution side of keeping it together when the world is falling apart.More from this series
The best, the deepest, and the closest friends that I have or that I’ve ever had have one thing in common. They all have each loved me enough to tell me things about my life that no one else cared enough to say.
When I measure friends, when I measure the people, when I lay in bed at night and look at the ceiling and think of the snapshots of, the people that have loved me, the people that I remember, they all have this one thing in common. They care enough, and they cared enough, to say the things to me that put our relationship on the line.
I can think of four encounters, four encounters that changed the entire course of my life because someone loved me enough to speak the truth to me.
The first was next to a water fountain. I was a Christian about nine months or a year, I can tell you right where it was, the fellow’s name was Jerry. I was a growing Christian with lots of struggles and I just had gotten involved in a relationship with a non-Christian gal. And it was going in a direction that wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t honoring God, and Jerry took me aside and he put his arm on my shoulder and he was walking from a Bible study and he opened his Bible, he turned it to 2 Corinthians chapter 6 and it says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”
And you know what? I didn’t like what he had to say and I thought, “Who are you to tell me who I can date and who I can’t and I don’t really appreciate it.” And I got alone and I prayed and he was right. And I think of where I would have been if I would have stayed in that relationship.
The second was a fellow named John. Unfortunately, I can always remember where these happened. When you get loved deeply and it hurts, it kind of sticks with you. I was at a summer training program off of Ohio State’s campus and there were these double beds and I’d just made my bed and John came in and it was cleared and he gave me a 3x5 card. He says, “I’ve really been thinking about you, Chip. I’ve really been praying.” And he was my team leader on this little project.
And on the 3x5 card were two verses: Luke 16:15 and Galatians 1:10. And Luke 16:15 says, “For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” And he turned to me and he said, “Chip,” he said, “you know, I think you’re learning how to jump through all the right hoops in Christian circles. But I don’t think you do it to please God. I think you do it to please people. I think you have a major problem with arrogance and pride in your life.”
And Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now a servant of God, or a pleaser of people?” And it goes on. I’d like to have hit him. I mean, you talk about, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. And then I prayed about it. It was so painful because it was so true.
The third was a fellow named Bill. Bill has gone home to be with the Lord. He had integrity like few people I have ever met. He was an elder at Country Bible Church. I can tell you where I was, there was a little A-frame type pavilion right in front that we built on the front of that old building to keep the rain off and it had cleared out after a Tuesday or a Wednesday night or some meeting.
And Bill was a real big man and he came up to me and he said, “Well, God is doing something here, isn’t He?” And I said, “Yeah,” I had been there about two or three years and things were growing.
And, you know, in any church there’s some of this. But in a real small, rural church there’s a lot of it. You know? The politics. About eighty percent of the people are related to one another in some way, somewhere, somehow.
And everyone has an agenda and they want to see it grow but as soon as the old timers see the newcomers come… And so, I was really getting some pressure about what I was teaching on, and he put his arm on my shoulder and he looked me right in the eye and he said, “Chip, I believe God wants to do something in your life.” He said, “You’re at a crossroads that every young pastor comes to.”
He said, “You’re either going to say it like it is and you’re going to speak the truth or you’re going to cave into the political pressure.” He said, “I can see it happening in the church.” And this guy had been really around the block.
He said, “You’re getting pulled here and pulled here and pulled here.” And he said, “You will either become just another person that tickles people’s ears and you tell them what they want to hear, or you will stand up and be a man of integrity and preach and teach what you know is true, regardless of who it offends.” And he said, “I admonish you. Don’t cave in.” Whoo. Spent a couple nights pretty late on that one.
The fourth one was another man named Bill. I was sitting in his office, my wife had just heard all these glowing reports about good things about her and it was something Dallas Seminary had put on called LEAD: Leadership Evaluation and Development.
And a number of other pastors had been there and so he talked about my wife, encouraged her, looked at her gifts and her profile, turned to me and I think, “Oh, good, this is good because she got such good reports, I’m ready for mine.”
And he looked at me and he crossed his arms and he had known me for a long time and he said, “Chip, you’re lazy.” He said, “I mean, in other areas – in preaching. You’re a lazy preacher.” He said, “I have looked at your tapes.” He said, “God has given you a lot of gift. You’re not doing near with your gift what you could be doing.” This is in front of my wife!
I remember going home from LEAD and beginning to prepare messages like I had never prepared in my whole life.
See, the first one was a relationship issue, the second one was a character issue, the third one was a ministry issue, and the last one was a giftedness issue. I don’t know where I would be without those four people loving me enough to say what would, and did, offend me. But because they cared, the entire course of my whole life has changed.
It’s an ancient truth, found in Proverbs 27 verses 5 and 6. It says, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
How do we love one another? The one anothers of the New Testament. Honor one another, care for one another, admonish one another.
I believe that this particular “one another,” admonish one another, is the most neglected, the most misunderstood, the least practiced, and the most needed in the body of Christ.
He gives us a critical command. It’s found in Romans chapter 15 verse 14. The apostle Paul, the context is awesome. He just talked in chapter 14, “Don’t judge one another in these grey areas, in these extra-biblical issues.”
And then in chapter 15, he talks about relationships and then in verse 14 he says, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are,” one, “full of goodness,” two, “filled with all knowledge,” and three - why? “then you are able to admonish one another.”
He said, “Don’t judge one another,” and here is the point: Admonishing one another is not judging one another. Judging is when I see something in your life that disagrees with my opinion. Admonishing is when I see something in your life, or you see something in my life, that doesn’t align with Scripture and I come to you or you come to me and we honestly speak the truth because we care that you get the very best, that you become all God wants you to become.
Now I realize, even right now, you should see your faces. This is like the hair has gone up on the back of some of your necks like, “Oh no. You’re not going to say we’ve got to do this.” No, I’m not going to say that. I’m going to tell you that’s what God says.
And so what I want to do is explain, “What is admonishment?” I want to talk about how to do it. I want to talk about why we need to do it because it is one of the most powerful, powerful things that ever happens in the life of a believer.
So what is it? Definition: It’s to exert influence upon another by life and word, to guide him or her into obedience of God’s will as revealed in Scripture. The Greek word is very interesting, in fact, a fellow back in the seventies out of a seminary in Philadelphia, he wrote a number of books and a very scholarly fellow, he actually started what he called, “Nouthetic counseling,” from the Greek word “noutheteo.”
He did a little research, a guy named William Glasser was involved in “reality therapy,” and he took some of those concepts and basically this word means “telling it like it is.” Not blaming other people, helping people take responsibility to see where their life is not lining up with Scripture.
Colin Brown, in his dictionary of the New Testament, I summarized it this way, “It consists, admonishing consists of reminding, warning, counseling, correcting, reproving, and rebuking a person with the intention that he or she will carry it out.” See, it’s caring enough to confront.
One scholar wrote, “The word does not simply refer to causal communication or normal teaching, but implies a definite and specific exhortation, correction, and warning to lead the person to a specific action.”
See, this isn’t even a, “You know what? I have a little concern about this vague area in your life and this way and somehow,” mm-mm. That’s not even admonishment. It’s talking specifically about a specific area that doesn’t line up with what is clearly God’s will. And then saying to the person, “I care enough and I would like to open the Scriptures with you and help you align your life in a way that it would be pleasing to God.”
Now, that sounds like pretty threatening stuff, doesn’t it? Well it is. And especially if anyone has ever done this badly, it may taint you for life. So, let me make a clarification here and give you what admonition is not, okay? Before we go on. Just so you can relax just a little.
This is what admonition is not. Five things it’s not. One, it is not judging another’s life who does not conform to your standards. It is responsively caring enough to help another brother or sister see where his life or her life is not conforming to the absolutes of Scripture.
Secondly, or second misconception, it is not a superior or the spiritual person talking down to the inferior, unspiritual person. It is equal to equal, brother to brother, sister to sister, saved sinner to saved sinner, in love saying, “I care so much I can’t let you experience less than God’s best.”
Third, it is not loading your spiritual shotgun and blasting God’s people with pellets of correction. You know, stick those six guns on and, “You know what? I think this is a ministry for me. I’m just going to look around and just blow people away.” No, no, no.
It is being sensitive to God’s Spirit, and the lives of others, and not allowing things to remain the way they are simply because you fear rejection.
You know the sad thing here? And we’re all guilty. The sad thing here is that what we don’t go and tell the person that really needs to hear it, when we see a marriage drifting apart, when we see one of their kids really getting out of line, when we see one of our brothers and sisters spending money in a way that doesn’t make sense, when we see things come out of people’s mouth and you think, “Boy, that’s danger.”
Isn’t it sad that instead of loving them enough to go tell them, we have the courage to go tell someone else? That’s an indictment.
Anytime we share something with someone else that’s not a part of the problem or the solution, the Bible has a name for it. Gossip. Flip it over, it’s called slander if it’s not true. That’s not what we’re talking about.
Fourth, it is not making general or veiled statements to a group, hoping that the one you want to hear it will catch the message. Have you ever seen this happen? Amazing, isn’t it? Instead, admonishment is personal in nature and directed to the individual. We’ll look at passages where the apostle Paul will say, “I said to each one of you.”
It was interesting, I remember a time at Dallas Seminary, this was really funny. I was finishing up the work there and this campus keeps growing and growing and growing. And this is how institutions respond, I hope they never hear this but they might, they make mistakes too.
But someone left a coffeepot on. Okay? This is classic corporate America. Someone left a coffeepot on and there was a little, tiny fire. That person who did that, that department that did that, in that one building out of all those buildings, never heard a word. Never heard a word from the administration.
But a week later, a policy came out, right? A policy came out, “All departments, all buildings all over the seminary cannot have any electrical appliance, especially coffeepots, anywhere on the campus.”
Now, you’re talking about a place where people are studying and they have built in kitchens. It was like, “We’ll solve this…” boom! With an elephant gun! “You think we got the gnat?”
And, see, that’s kind of how we do it. We spray it and we think, “Well, you know, that person was in the room so I’m sure they heard it.” It’s like, “I’ll yell at all my kids and hope the one that is really having the problem will catch this one.”
Fifth, it is not a one time shot and if they don’t respond, “Well, I’ve done my duty.” It must be persistent and increasing in intensity if it is to be effective. Jot down, if you will, 1 Thessalonians 2:11. I don’t have time to develop it, it’s an interesting word study where the apostle Paul, talking about this discipling process of admonishment, first of all, he gives you the background, that it comes out of a heart of love.
And then he uses three different words where he says, “We encouraged you, then we exhorted you, and then we urged you,” and if you studied each one of those words very carefully, they go up in intensity and they are very personal. In other words, when people don’t catch it the first time, he said, “Whatever it takes… whatever it takes, I’m going to bring about the vise of intensity so that they get it.”
Well, this sounds kind of hard, doesn’t it? Maybe we could skip over this one. Let’s major on honoring one another, loving one another, building up one another. I mean, do we really have to do this?
But already some of you are thinking, “Oh, it’s Bob, it’s Mary, it’s my coworker. I’ve got to talk to my wife, you know what? We have got to sit down and talk with one of our kids.” Or, “You know what? We are involved in ministry with someone,” already, or, “I’ve got a close friend and, you know, she or he…”
And so, right about now your resisters are going up. You’re trying to rationalize, as you listen with one ear, you’re rationalizing with the other ear, “How can I get out of this? I don’t want to do this.” Right?
So, let me give you some biblical ammunition and some rationale, why it’s the most loving thing you’ll ever do for another person.
Why must we admonish one another? First, this is pretty simple, it is a command. Colossians 3:16, we are to be filled with the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. How? Why? So everyone matures in Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 it says, “Admonish,” it’s a command, “the idle; warn those who are unruly.”
The second reason is because we all have blind spots. Psalm 19:12, very interesting prayer, David is praying. And as he prays there he just stops and he says, “O God, forgive me for all my sins,” and then he says, “and those sins I don’t know about, those presumptuous ones, those ones that I don’t even know I have, forgive those too.”
Do you realize you have those? I mean, you can sit before God, be totally open to God, and yet because of the way your psyche and your denial and your mind and all the struggles you have and I have, there are areas in your life that are not aligned at all with Scripture, they are in juxtaposition to what is true and what is right and you don’t see it.
And so David prays, “God, forgive me for even those.” In Psalm 139:23 and 24, he actually prays, “Lord, search me and know me, test me, reveal if there is anything in my heart that doesn’t align with You, if there is any wicked way, any evil way, would you show me?” Because we don’t always get it. And a blind spot, I mean a blind spot, I don’t mean that you’re trying to resist, or you’re trying not to see it, I mean you can’t see it.
One of the pivotal points in my whole marriage, I was married less than a year, and I’m working full-time and going to school full-time and we just have Eric and Jason, they’re both about seven. And I’m thinking, “You know, I’m really busting it and I’m really going to treat the family.” Coco’s, back then, for ninety-nine cents, kids could eat a whole meal, you know, two eggs, bacon, and that’s all we could afford.
So, they could do that and we could split a sandwich for under ten bucks get out of the place and that’s about as much we could ever afford to go out to eat.
And so I’m thinking, “I’m really a pretty neat guy. Taking my family out to eat, I’m working full-time, I’m going to school, and really trying to love my wife. You know, I’m listening to Howard Hendricks about how to be a better husband and…”
So anyway, my wife it sitting on this corner and the kids are now coloring. Remember those days? And she turns to me and she said, “You don’t love me, do you?” “Excuse me, honey, my hearing aid must be off or something.” And I don’t wear one. “What?” “You don’t love me, do you?”
I’m thinking, “Did she go out and get a lobotomy this morning? There’s no one I love more. Come on,” you know? And then, this was my first experience, I’ve shared this with those who have been around. This was my first experience, then she talked about the carpet, and the drapes, and the leaky faucet, and the stuff that was piled out the door, and the shambles that, apparently, from her perspective, our apartment was in.
I mean, what in the world does fixing up your house, have to do with loving your wife? This was new material! I mean, this was not like, “Oh, I know you ought to do that as a good husband and I don’t get it.” Blind spot.
Now, let me ask you, what’s yours? I wonder what it is that’s keeping a roadblock in maybe one of the most intimate, important relationships in your life? You don’t see it. Do you realize that part of God’s plan is someone else will see it and if you could be open, if you could be tender to the Spirit’s work, He will reveal that, not only through His Word but through another person? And love you enough to bring about major life change?
I tell you what, that turned our marriage around. It about put me in the grave getting there but it turned our marriage around.
The third reason, not only is it a command, not only because of blind spots, but to become godly, holy, mature Christians. It’s a great vision passage, Colossians 1:28 and 29. It’s says, “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man, that we might present every man, every woman, every person complete in Christ.” And Paul says, “For this reason I labor,” or work or struggle or agonize, literally. It’s an athletic term. “…striving according to His power that mightily works within me.”
Proclaim, evangelism; once a person comes to Christ, teaching; information; then admonishing, correcting. Those three things have to happen for you to grow and for me to grow. You’ll never become a mature Christian if you can’t hear God speak through other people.