I want to start by reading Psalm 141:5. Listen to David’s words, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.”
Our sermon today is titled, “How to Take a Punch”. What we mean by this title is how we take it when someone comes to us with a rebuke. When David says, “Let a righteous man strike me”, he is not talking literally about a punch to the face, but, someone verbally striking him face to face. It is a poetic way of describing confrontation when we’re in the wrong. “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head.”
Have you ever been rebuked? The idea of rebuking someone involves showing someone the error in their life so that they are convinced of the error and make appropriate corrections. It can be a painful moment. But it’s good to remember the words of Proverbs 27:6 when it says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…”
The Bible is full of examples of men being confronted: King Saul was confronted by the prophet Samuel because of his disobedience to the LORD (1 Samuel 15). King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan when David committed adultery (2 Samuel 12). The Apostle Peter was confronted by the Apostle Paul when Peter was causing division in the Church (Gal 2). And more examples are to be found.
Let’s start out with honesty: no one likes to be told they are in the wrong. No one likes it when they hear that they’ve either done something or said something that is not right. None of us looks forward to those moments. Actually, for many of us, those times probably bring out the worst in us. We get defensive, vindictive, deflective, and we start looking for ways to pass blame. Criticizing others comes naturally to us but being criticized can be simply unfathomable. “Who would dare criticize me?”
But these moments are also an excellent test to see how much pride is really in our hearts. Pride prevents us from hearing criticism. Pride makes us think we don’t have any faults. Pride makes us blind to areas in our lives that we need to grow in. Pride makes us think the plank in our eye is only a little sliver and the sliver in someone else’s eye is a giant plank. Pride exaggerates our own strengths while exaggerating the weaknesses of others. Pride minimizes our own weaknesses while magnifying the weaknesses of others. Because of this, there is probably no occasion when our pride is seen more clearly than when we are confronted by someone about an issue in our lives.
But let me say this: the skill of responding to a rebuke is essential for the Christian life. As a matter of fact, it is essential in marriage and parenting and on the job and in many situations. Notice I said skill – it is something we are not naturally good at but with practice we get better.
Now, unless we live under a rock we will eventually be in situations where we are in need of a good Biblical rebuke. The reason is because no one here is perfect. We’re all pressing on toward’s perfection in Christ, towards maturity in the faith, aiming for the goal of Christ-likeness. No one has arrived, young or old. So let us not pay lip service to our faults. I mean, let’s not say “O I’m not perfect I know. Nobody is perfect” and then act all fussy when someone actually talks to us about one of our imperfections.
So since the chances are we’ll all be rebuked at one point or another in the future, let’s think ahead about how we’ll respond when that time comes. Let me offer some pointers for how to take a punch in your Christian life.
#1: Realize that a rebuke may be an open door to personal growth in your faith
Realize that a rebuke may be an open door to personal growth. Listen to Proverbs 9:8-9, “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 15:32 says, “Whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 19:25 says, “…rebuke a discerning man and he will gain knowledge.”
What we are seeing in these verses is how a wise person responds to a rebuke. They are wise because they listen to a rebuke and learn from it. They increase their wisdom because they are humble enough to listen and mature.
***Key point here: You will never be wise if you cannot listen to criticism. Let us say it inversely, you will remain a fool if you don’t listen and learn from someone who rebukes you.
It’s very helpful too to consider that God may be using them in your life. A great example is when the Apostle Paul had to confront the Apostle Peter. Turn with me to Galatians 2:11-14. Peter was doing something wrong. He was staying with his Jewish clique and not hanging out with the Gentile Christians. He was acting in a way that reinforced the division between Jews and Gentiles. He was causing division in the Church, where God had brought unity. So, the Apostle Paul had the unpleasant task of confronting the leader of the Apostles.
Here’s the thing though: Perhaps Peter later realized that God used Paul to correct this behavior. You may have never given attention to that area in your life if the person never said anything. Sometimes we’re aware of things in our life but don’t get motivated to change until someone says something to us.
Realize that a rebuke may be an open door to personal growth in the faith.
#2: Realize that rebuking each other is a responsibility Christians have towards each other.
This doesn’t mean that we carry a badge and now we’re on a mission to put everyone in their place, to beat people down and point fingers. That isn’t the way the Bible describes Christian fellowship at all. What this means is that admonishing and rebuking each other has a legitimate place in our fellowship as Christians. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” In other words, God has put it on us as Christians to hold each other accountable.
But I’m not bringing this point up to legitimize the person who does the rebuking. I’m bringing up this point for us today as those who may one day be on the receiving end of a rebuke. We need to understand this point today because if we as Christians are ever in sin or error then we need to see that our fellow Christians have the right and the difficult responsibility of confronting us.
No one likes to be confronted over things in their lives, but, more than any other people, we as Christians should acknowledge our responsibility to at least listen humbly when someone is trying to speak truth lovingly into our lives. In other words, we don’t spout off a bunch of garbage like, “Mind your own business!”, or, “You don’t have a right to talk to me about that!” Yes, a brother or sister who loves me and is trying to help me by rebuking me has a God-given right, and, a God-given responsibility. The Church is self-regulating in this regard.
When Jesus describes the 4 step process for carrying out church discipline in Matthew 18, there is something that is unstated but very obvious in our Lord’s words. The person who is being confronted for their sin has the responsibility to repent. If they don’t, then the church moves to the next steps. In other words, the person being confronted is supposed to recognize that the church has the right and the responsibility to speak truth into their lives. So let each of us learn this lesson: if our brother or sister comes and rebukes us they have a responsibility before God, and a right from God, to do so. Therefore, let us give our ears to what is said.
#3: Listen to what is being said more than how it is being said.
Some people are better at confrontation than others. It’s easier to hear about your faults from some people than it is from others. What I mean is that some people may not approach you in a way that makes it easy to hear what they are saying.
But, what they are saying may be very important for you to hear. Proverbs 19:11 (our Family Worship memory verse for September) says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” If someone is offensive in the way they criticize you, don’t let it make you deaf to what they are criticizing you about. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry.” Excellent advise if you are being confronted. An excellent example of this is when King David was confronted by Shimei in 2 Samuel 16:5-. [Turn there and read].
When you are the king of Israel you don’t put up with such treatment. But David was suffering the consequences of his sin and he thought that maybe Shimei was part of those consequences the Lord was making him suffer.
Lesson: Be ready to admit that there really is something you need to correct. When someone comes to you about something in your life follow these 3.5 steps: 1) Assess whether their criticism is legitimate, 2) Acknowledge your need to change, and 3) Arrange the necessary changes, and 3.5) Appreciate them for their love and their courage in coming to you.
Listen to what is being said more than how it is being said.
#4: Commit to praying about the issue.
Make the first thing you do after being rebuked is to pray. Not once, but, commit to praying about the issue over the next few days or weeks. When you pray I recommend you pray for the following: 1) Ask God to give you an open heart to what was said to you, 2) Ask him give you a willing heart to make changes. 3) Ask God to help you be humble and appreciative in your attitude towards the person who came to you..
#5: You have to care about righteousness more than you care about being right.
This is the heart of Psalm 141. David loves righteousness so much that he wants to be rebuked when his life does not show forth God’s righteousness. You have to love righteousness more than you care about being in the right.
Turn to Psalm 141. Notice verses 1-2 David prays for himself that he would be righteous. In verse 3 he prays that he would not speak evil, but rather that his mouth would speak righteous things. Then notice the first half of verse 4 David does not want his heart to desire evil, but rather righteousness. The last half of verse 4 “with men who are evil doers; let me not eat of their delicacies” means he doesn’t want to delight in evil, or be in the company of men who do evil. What we see here is a man who is obsessed with being righteous because he is obsessed with God. That’s why in verse 5 he welcomes a rebuke from a righteous man because a righteous man’s rebuke will help David stay on track in being righteous.
David loved righteousness more than he loved being in the right.
Some people cannot take the notion that they are ever wrong. We have all seen people, sometimes the person in the mirror, who stubbornly refuses to admit any wrongdoing and who are vigorously defend themselves to the death. But in scene 3 Shakespears play The Winter’s Tale, King Leontes mourns his coldness of heart and says “I am ashamed: does not the stone rebuke me, For being more stone than it?” Let us not be so much like stones and stubbornly unaffected that we are unresponsive to a good and needed rebuke. Proverbs 12:1 says “he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 13:1 says, “a mocker does not listen to a rebuke.” And sadly, in the process, the righteousness of God is not seen anywhere in their life because they hold on to their sin so strongly.
When we are rebuked, we have to care more about God’s righteousness than we care about being in the right.
#6: Be thankful the person has confronted you.
Be thankful the person has confronted you. Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.” And Proverbs 25:12 says, “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.” Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” A man of discernment who has a listening ear will appreciate a well-placed rebuke from one of his friends. That was the way David saw it. Psalm 141:5 says, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.”
And remember, it’s hard to confront someone. The person may have agonized and prayed and thought long and hard about what they would say to you for a long time before actually talking to you. It takes a lot of courage to go to someone.