How to Speak the Truth in Love
From the series Love One Another
Sometimes the truth really HURTS! Getting straight talk from a friend is about as fun as getting a root canal, but we all need people in our lives who will honestly level with us! Chip explains why it’s so important to be a truth-telling-best-friend.
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About this series
Love One Another
Ten Keys to Experiencing Life in a Supernatural Community
We've all heard the thought-provoking challenge to face life's decisions asking, "What would Jesus do?" But what if we were to live each moment in light of Jesus' "new" commandment to "love one another" - as He has loved us? What would happen within our homes and churches if we took seriously His instructions to foster authentic, caring relationships? This series explores the powerful possibilities of lives lived according to the radical "one anothers" of the New Testament.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.
The first 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 second was a fellow 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, “Oh, I mean, you know, 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.
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.”
In this series, we are talking about life in a supernatural community. What did Jesus say? He said, “Love one another.” 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, 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, “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, 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, almost twenty years ago, I was married less than a year, I was at Coco’s. I can always remember where I was. You know what? When you get hit right here with a bullet between the eyes, no matter how loving it produces in the long term, it hurts in the short term.
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, She checked, she went and got a lobotomy this morning? There’s no one I love more. Come on! You know? And then, 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 your house, 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’ll 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. Great vision passage, Colossians 1:28 and 29. It 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.
The fourth reason is it cultivates deep, loving relationships. 1 Thessalonians 2:8. The apostle Paul said, “It was our delight, not only to give away to you the gospel but our very selves, for you know that while we were among you, I was like a father with his children, like a mother nursing her babe.”
The deepest, deepest relationships you’ll ever have will not be the people that always pat you on the back, tell you how great you are, ha-ha, high-five you. The deepest relationships you’ll ever have are the people where, over time, they have freedom to speak into your life and you have freedom to speak into theirs.
See, the test of love isn’t patting people on the back and making them feel good all the time. The test of love is wanting what is best for them so bad you’re willing to risk the relationship.
Now, as you’re thinking about that person that God might just want you to be His voice to speak into their life, do you love them? Do you love them? Do you love them enough to tell the truth?
Now, as you’re thinking about that person that God might just want you to be His voice to speak into their life, do you love them? Do you love them? Do you love them enough to tell the truth?
The fifth reason, and this one gets right back into it, is because sin destroys a believer’s life. We use this verse when we share the gospel, you know, Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The wages of sin is death! That’s not true just theologically. That’s not true just with regard to salvation. The price tag of sin is death. What’s death in the New Testament, the Old Testament? It’s separation, it’s alienation from God.
You know, when I sin against my wife it produces a distance. When I sin against God it produces a distance and then there are consequences.
If I see sin in your life, or you see sin in my life, if you see my life going this direction and the Scripture clearly says it should be going this direction and you don’t tell me, I’m going to end up in a ditch! I’m going to destroy my life!
And you know what? It never just destroys me but then the ripples, I destroy and mess up other people. Don’t we all know that? Don’t we all have friends, we saw it coming, the marriage broke up, the partnership broke apart, the kid was going astray, we didn’t say anything, and then, bang! It destroyed them, then other people, then other people, then other people. You see?
Admonition is God’s antibiotic in the body of Christ. Sin is like an infection; it’s like cancer cells. Admonition needs to come early and hard and lovingly. Bombard that infection with the antibiotic of God’s truth, spoken in love.
You save people. Where would I be if someone didn’t say, “You’re a lazy preacher.” I’d still be giving lazy sermons and I’ll tell you what, God wouldn’t be using them the way He is now.
The final reason is because we are members of one another, Romans 12:4 and 5 says, “We are members of one another,” just like a human body.
Once someone we respect crosses the line of Scripture, not our standards, but of Scripture, unchecked, it’s like a herd, like a herd of sheep. We follow and the Church loses its salt and its light. When sin is not dealt with, it soon becomes the status quo.
You’ve read the reports, right? One out of four Americans claim – what? That they are born again in America! How can this be? One out of four people in America claim they have a personal, life-giving, eternal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is a holy God, who is Creator, who is all-powerful.
Now, I’ve only got one or two options on this when I look at the divorce rate in America, the lack of integrity in America, the morals in America, the education in America, when one out of every four Christians is a Christian that’s salt and light, there are only two options here.
One, a lot of people lie or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Or the other, which I think, I think they are sincere. They are not salty. And they are not light. And somewhere along the line, this is the way it happens. We all know the Bible says this, and that’s wrong and this is right.
And then some respected leader, or some group, does that and we turn and think, “Gosh, I always thought that was wrong.” That verse, “I guess maybe that verse doesn’t mean what it just clearly says.”
“Well, he is a leader and that’s a big organization.” Or, “That’s an influential church,” so guess what happens – so people do it, and then people do it, and then people do it.
And so, we have a Church full of people instead of sharpening one another to love and to good works and to holiness and to righteousness and to purity, we’ve got a whole group of people always looking at someone who is less holy and saying, “You know, other Christians are doing this. Other Christians watch that. Other Christians do this with their money. Other Christians let their kids do this. Other Christians…”
And you know what we have? We’ve got a pathetic, sick, anemic Church that basically the driving pulse of the Church in America of Jesus Christ is how individual Christians can be comfortable, can be happy, be self-fulfilled, and get their needs met, and if this church doesn’t do it, I’ll find one that does.
And the calling of the Church of Jesus Christ is to be salt, to be light, to be leaven, to be holy, to be righteous, to be a kingdom of priests, to be “other”! Not prudish, not down your nose at people, but in a winsome, godly, holy way, live a separate life.
You know why that doesn’t happen? Because there’s not much antibiotic going on. All of us are telling our wives or our friends about things we see in people’s lives instead of telling them.
Now, it’s important, isn’t it? So, what have we said? We have said that this is really important, that God commands it, that it will develop deep relationships, that we all need it, that it’ll protect the Church. The logical question is – let’s see, God commands it, I need it, it’ll help me, it’ll help others – why don’t we do it?
Let me give you three reasons. Reason number one you already know about, don’t you? Confrontation is difficult. Some of us would rather die than bring up tough stuff with people. We are peacekeepers instead of peace makers.
Peacekeepers, status quo, status quo, don’t rock the boat, don’t rock the boat, don’t be mad at me, like me, like me, like me, everything is okay, everything is okay. It’s called pseudo-peace.
That just means that you’re putting wood on the fire, you’re putting plutonium tubes into the reactor because, man, it’s going to blow up. That’s what peacekeepers do.
Peace makers say, “Let’s get it on the table, let’s deal with this now while it’s small, while it’s manageable.” We hate confrontation, I hate confrontation, I loathe it. Every time I know, “Oh man, I’ve got to address this?” I get a big knot in my stomach and then I usually can’t sleep the night before, it’s always a hundred times bigger in my mind than, now I have learned, it really plays out to be.
But after I have seen the havoc and the pain that not speaking the truth in love produces, I’ll tell you what, I’m so committed to this, our staff would say, “He is. He is so committed to it, it’s scary.” I want to receive it and I want to give it because what I learned is the pain is too great when we don’t.
The second reason we don’t do it is we feel inadequate. Honestly, part of you are thinking, “Yeah, maybe I should. I see this in this in this person’s life but, you know, this is like the kettle calling the pot black. I mean, who am I to speak into another person’s life? I mean, I struggle with this and this and this and this and…” Well, I’m going to talk about that. But at least go through the logic.
If you wait until you’re perfect to speak into another person’s life, when will you speak? No time soon. Now, there are some competencies, prerequisites before you speak, but you’re adequate. In fact, having to speak will cause you to grow.
Third, we don’t know how. I think this is one of the big ones. I mean, you feel it, you’re emotional, “I talked to them, I’ve got to say something, but I don’t know how! I just don’t know how! What do I do?” We’re going to tell you very specifically how to do it.
So, at this point, in that wrestling match in your mind, I’m praying that God’s winning and that you’re getting to the point where that person, that friend, coworker, that child, that person you’re in ministry with, that person that has drifted away, that person that is involved in an illicit affair, that person that you know is struggling in an area…
I’m praying that if you’re right at the point now where you’re saying, “God, okay, I don’t want to do this, You know I don’t want to do it, but You commanded it, this is the most loving thing I could do. God, if You will show me how, I am open. But I feel inadequate. What do You want to do in me first? How prepared do I need to be?”
The question then becomes, “Who is really competent to admonish?” From Romans 15:14 and from the rest of the New Testament, I think there are three characteristics, before you go out and speak to anyone, these three things need to be a part of your life and your experience.
First, it requires a life full of goodness. Did you see that in the line? He says, “I’m fully convinced that you are,” what? “full of goodness.” This term, in general, means that we are living a holy, righteous life. The idea is that we are going to clean up our own act before we’re going to move into another’s life and clean up theirs.
Now, a classic passage on this is usually misquoted and even worse, it’s misapplied. Jesus’ words, our culture has got this one down though. Matthew 7, right? 3 through 5. “Who are you,” right? “Who are you to take the speck out of your brother’s eye when you have a log in your own eye?” Right? We have heard that.
So, anytime you go to anyone and you say, “You know, I really need to talk with you. I’ve observed some things and I don’t mean they’re my opinions, I’m talking about, this is black and white. This is really clear in the Scripture. I want you to know I love you.”
And the immediate response is, “Who are you to speak into my life?” Read that passage this afternoon carefully, will you? It’s very interesting. It is a warning. It says, “Clean up your heart, your life, let God examine you, get the log out of your eye before you take the speck out of your brother or your sister’s eye. You hypocrite,” it goes on to say. And then you know what it says? The assumption is you will take the speck out of their eye.
It is not, “Never do that.” The actual application is just the opposite. Read it carefully! The application is, “Deal with your own life first, so that you will, in fact, take the speck out of their life.”
And so let me ask you, what is it that you need to deal with, personally and privately, before you go talk to that friend? Where is God speaking to you where you need to say, “God, I’m sorry, I need to repent, I need to deal with that so that I can go talk to them.”
The second requirement is not only a life full of goodness but it requires a life filled with knowledge, same passage, Romans 15:14. The idea here is that you are filled with God’s Word. We must be careful to admonish with regard to the absolutes of Scripture, not in areas that are extra-biblical.
When you go and talk to someone, this can’t be your opinion about something. “You know, I really don’t think that these kind of fashions and those kind of fashions, or those kind of shoes, or whether you ought to wear lipstick or not,” and all that jazz. This is about knowing God’s Word and in very clear, black and white, biblical issues you speak into people’s lives.
I did a little word study, let me give you twelve or fifteen specific areas in the New Testament where we have examples. If you want to know, like, where do we have freedom to admonish? Concerning false teachers, Acts 20:21. When people are involved in any kind of false teaching or false teaching is moving in, we ought to step in.
Concerning false doctrine, 2 Timothy 4; concerning disunity in personal relationships, Philippians 4, when people are at each other’s throat we need to step in; concerning immoral behavior, 1 Corinthians 5; concerning diligence in corporate and individual prayer or the study of God’s Word. You see people sliding in those disciplines.
Concerning the health and wellbeing of another, 1 Timothy 4. Paul says, “Hey Timothy, let me admonish you. You need to get your diet right because I’m concerned about your health.”
There may be someone to whom you say, “What you’re drinking, what you’re putting in your body, or how you’re working is killing you. I love you; I’m going to speak to you.”
Concerning boldness and identifying with Christ, 2 Timothy 1:7 and 8; concerning how to relate to the opposite sex, both before and after marriage, 1 Corinthians 7; concerning perseverance and endurance through trials when people are ready to give up, 2 Timothy 4:4, James 1; concerning materialism and money, 1 Timothy 6; concerning the use or the neglect of your spiritual gift, I got that one; concerning gossip, spreading rumors, giving false or misleading or malicious reports, 1 Peter 2; concerning pride or arrogance in a person’s life, 1 Corinthians 4; concerning the loving of the brethren.
Those are all black and white issues. Those are issues that when you see them in my life you have a moral responsibility to come and say to me, “Chip, I see materialism creeping into your life…” Or at least, “I see some things I don’t understand.”
“Chip, I see arrogance or pride creeping into your life as evidenced by these comments that you made. Chip, I have this inkling of immoral behavior in light of seeing you walk out of that building and that building with this woman that I didn’t know. Now, tell me it’s your sister and tell me you were sharing Christ in there, fine!” Do you get it? But you’ve got to be filled with the Word.
Finally, and I think this is the most important. You can err almost anywhere, don’t err here, the third characteristic is it requires a heart filled with love. It’s the whole passage, Romans 15:14 he says, “Brothers.” 1 Corinthians 4:14 he admonishes them and he says, “Not to shame you but as,” listen, “as beloved children.”
Acts 20:31 when he’s talking with these elders, and he’s warning them and he’s admonishing. He says, “You remember when I was with you how night and day, with tears, I did it out of love.” 2 Thessalonians 3:15, “As a brother.” Ephesians 6:4, “As a father does children.”
Well, we’re at that point where let’s talk about how to do it. I believe by this time probably most of you are at least pondering or thinking about someone you really love, you know there’s an area in their life that if it continues, it will destroy them, it may destroy a family, it will mar the testimony of Christ, it will bring destruction into their life, and God will not use them. It will completely render them useless, if unchecked.
So, how do you do it? Let me just give you a real step-by-step plan. First, examine your own life, okay? Examine your own life. Get before God, get alone, get your Bible open, say, “God, if there is something that I need to address before I talk with them, show me.” Sit quietly, He’ll show you.
Second, examine the Word. Whatever the issue is, you don’t go to people with vague – you go to them – what helped me was, every time people have admonished me that have really helped me, they shared a passage. The authority is not you and your opinions. The authority is Scripture.
You come alongside as a brother or sister, “I care,” and you say, “I care about you and see this truth right here? What I perceive so far is your life doesn’t align with that truth,” and you show them the truth, you read it to them lovingly, caringly.
Third, examine your motives. On our staff we have a little saying: If you can’t say it in love, don’t say it. Keep praying until you can. That doesn’t mean you get off the hook. If you’re angry and hacked off, which, by the way, often is how you start off with people, right?
“I’m angry and hacked off because she said this and she said this and…” and you realize they’ve got a major problem in their life. Well, you don’t get to go until you go because your one goal is you care about them.
Fourth, set a time to meet privately. Don’t get all fired up about this and bump into them in the hall and say, “Hey, by the way,” people everywhere, “I’d like to really admonish you.” Don’t do that.
Five, ask specific questions to confirm data and disarm the situation. You know, sometimes you do have data and it may not, it may look one way but ask a few probing questions before you make some fiat statements.
I remember once a staff member came into my office and looked around, shut the door and, this is how I remember it in my mind. It may not be quite as big but it was kind of funny.
And he looked around and he said, “Could I talk to you just a second?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Boy, that’s a nice picture of your wife over there and your kids over here,” and he looked at me with a, “Who is this real pretty girl right up here? I mean, right out here. Who is this woman in your office?”
And it was, like, “You know, I really think this is inappropriate, I mean…” I said, “It’s my sister.” And then I said, “Thanks, I appreciate it. I think she’s kind of cute too.” But you know what? It sent a message and he was asking a question to confirm the data. See, that’s what you’ve got to do. Because you may find out they were sharing Christ in that bar. Or that was an innocent relationship. So, ask before you leap in.
Sixth, tenderly point out the sin, show them the Scripture that applies to them. Open your Bible, show them.
Seventh, if possible, develop a game plan, timetable, and follow-up meeting for support and follow through. Now, I say, “If possible,” because, now, I’m going to warn you, my experience is against this. My experience is whenever you really love someone and you go in love, and you go in tears, and you really care, ninety percent of the time the response is very, very positive. But not always.
See, the issue is not how they respond. That’s not your responsibility. The issue is will you do what God wants you to do? What they do with the truth spoken in love is their responsibility.
But if possible, you don’t go just to dump it and say, “Well, good, now have you got it?” But then you say, “Okay, what’s a game plan? What’s a timetable?” Who, it may not even be you, but who could help you deal with this area? Do you need to get in a Bible study or there’s a group of men or a group of women working on this or, you know, how do you help the person? The goal is to love them, bring them into line with God’s will and get help. Not for you to say, “Boy, I’m glad that’s over.”
Conclusion, admonition is God’s antibiotic for the Church. Done biblically, done biblically, it is the most loving thing you can ever do for all concerned.
Now, let me give you an action step, are you ready? Is there someone who needs to hear a word from God through you in your relational network? Yes or no? Just yes or no? Is there or not? I mean, no vague, no, oh, maybe or sort of…no. Is there someone whose life is in juxtaposition to what is the clear will of God?
Now, what are you going to do is another issue. But is there someone today, right now, that needs to hear from you? Yes or no? No, “I’ll think about it later.” No, I mean right now, is there or not?
Second, do you love them enough to speak to them this week? Yes or no? You can be honest and say, “No, I don’t love them that much. I don’t want to risk the relationship. I want to keep it superficial. If they are destroyed, if things happen, well, I can live with that but I’m not going to, I don’t want the rejection.” Okay, but yes or no? Do you love them enough to speak to them or not?
I’m kind of trapping you with these questions, aren’t I? By design and without apology. You could save a marriage. You could save a person’s life, you could save a person’s job, you could save a future, you could transform the entire course of a person’s life if you loved them enough to admonish them.
The final question, with God’s help, are you willing right now, today, to commit to pray, examine your own life, and then fill in the day this week that you’re going to go talk to them?