Love One Another

Admonish One Another

Teaching t21865

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Christian Community
Admonish One Another


Introduction

We are doing a series on Christian community, which Jesus gave as the mandate for his followers (Jn. 13:34,35). We take this mandate seriously (SPHERE VISION: POINT #2). What does it look like to love one another as Jesus loves us? One way to answer this question is by seeing how the New Testament letters unpack this through different “one another” passages. We are looking at four of them: welcome one another (LAST WEEK), confess to one another and forgive one another (NEXT TWO WEEKS)—and admonish one another (THIS WEEK).

Christian community is radically counter-cultural! It always has been, but it is especially so in our culture, which is historically unparalleled in its commitment to individualism. The Bible affirms individuality—God knows us each by name, he has a unique role for each of us, salvation is by individual choice, etc. But it condemns individualism, insisting that human beings are essentially communal (IMAGE of Triune God; BODY metaphor), and therefore can flourish as individuals only in the context of community. By contrast, western individualism prizes convenience, autonomy, privacy, mobility, etc. as crucial to human well-being, and views the commitments and accountability of community as unhelpful or harmful. This is a tragedy, and the issue of community becomes a test of loyalty for Jesus’ followers: Will we be conformed to our culture, or will we allow Jesus to radically transform us into a counter-cultural community that shines as God’s light in an increasingly isolated and alienated world?

I am concerned that more of us are being conformed than transformed. Research indicates that most American Christians view real Christian community as entirely optional to their spiritual health and growth. In other words, many Christians know that they aren’t in community, but believe this is no big deal. Even worse is to think you are in Christian community when you’re really not (Matt. 6:23). In this scenario, you attend certain meetings (CT; home group), but don’t have “one another” relationships. I think many of us are in one of these two camps—thus this series.

Admonish one another

Today we look at one of the most counter-cultural ways we are to love one another—“admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14; Col. 3:16). “Admonish” is one of several New Testament words (exhort; reprove; rebuke; counsel; correct; discipline; etc.) that refer to moral correction in order to help one another follow God’s will.

Admonition can take many forms depending on several variables—from an inquiry about a fine-tuning attitude (“How are you doing with showing affection toward your wife?”) to a straightforward confrontation about an action (“You were very harsh toward your wife when I was with you yesterday.”) to a group intervention over a pattern of destructive behavior (“We are calling on you to end your marital infidelity if you want to continue being part of this community.”).

Col. 3:16 tells us several things. “Admonish one another” presumes an objective source of moral authority for all Christians—God’s Word. It means that all Christians are responsible both to receive it and give admonition as needed. It also means that all Christians can and should learn to do this effectively—we can gain “wisdom” through knowledge and practice. Christian friendships, marriages, and churches that lack this component are biblically deficient (at best) or dysfunctional (at worst).

This, of course, raises the question: “How do you do this effectively?” This is a very important question, and the Bible gives us several principles to guide us. You can learn about these principles in my book, Loving God’s Way, in the chapter entitled “Admonish One Another.” But I think we need to focus our time on a more basic question: “Why is admonition so important?” If you don’t have convictions about the “Why?” learning how won’t matter because you won’t do it. On the other hand, if you do have these convictions, you will be motivated to learn how. Here are three convictions all Christians need to have about this.

#1: Wise counsel for major decisions is necessary for a God-honoring life

The first conviction is that wise counsel or advice for major decisions is necessary for a God-honoring life. Increasingly, Christians view major life decisions (e.g., marriage and marital issues; job offers; parenting issues; major purchases, moving; etc.) individualistically—as matters that are “their business alone” or as something only between them and God. But this is a deeply unbiblical perspective.

On a strictly practical level, none of us has the knowledge or wisdom to make important complex life-decisions on our own. To try to do this betrays a lack of humility or (worse) a self-willed attitude (I know what I want and that’s all that matters). This is why Solomon says Prov. 12:15; 15:22 (read).

On a deeper level, Christians are God’s children and brothers and sisters in God’s family. Because this is true, we need to learn to make major decisions with a “family” mentality. What does this mean?

For one thing, it means that God discloses much of his personal will for our lives through the counsel of our Christian brothers and sisters. “Any serious endeavor to know God’s will should not be an isolated effort, but one shared with other Christians. If my commitment to Christ is inseparable from my commitment to other believers, then I must not expect to fully understand his will apart from being in relationship with other Christians, and I should expect that he would convey his will to me through others. I should regard any attempt to resolve an important decision without the counsel of other Christians as a short-circuit of my relationship with Christ.”

This also means that we must consider the impact of our decisions not only on ourselves or our immediate family, but also on the Christian community in which we are involved (TEXAS PASTOR: 1/3 OF CHURCH MOVES FOR CAREER EVERY FEW YEARS; THIS IS NEVER CHALLENGED).

Do you ask for counsel from other vital Christians concerning major decisions? If not, why not? Is it because you have been ignorant of this truth, or is there a moral reason (e.g., self-confidence; self-will)? Are you involved enough with other Christians that you have easy access to wise counsel from people who know you well?


#2: Admonition is necessary because of sin’s power to deceive us

The second conviction is that admonition is necessary because of sin’s power to deceive us. This is taught very clearly in Heb. 3. The author has reminded his audience how God called on the Israelites to go on into the Promised Land—trusting his protection in spite of their enemies. But the Israelites rejected God’s exhortation; they used their minds to fabricate reasons why it was permissible for them to disobey God’s will. Then God sent Joshua and Caleb to exhort them to trust and obey him, and to warn them of the consequences of disobedience. But they rejected their exhortation. As a result, that entire generation forfeited the privilege of entering the Promised Land.

Then he draws a lesson for his Christian audience (read 3:13 ESV). “Exhort one another” is the same idea as “admonish one another”—challenge one another to follow God’s will, warn one another not to disregard his will, etc. Notice the reason why this is so important—“that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin not only has the power to injure us and others when we obey it; it also has the power to deceive us into believing that it will fulfill us. Sin is so deceitful that I cannot protect myself against it by myself. I am not capable of moral self-direction; I need a “security system” external to myself. God provides this security system. He is never deceived by sin, and he always warns his children (through his Word and through our conscience). But we have moral blind-spots, and we can and often do ignore God’s personal warnings. Once we do this, sin has “breached our house” and easily hardens us to do its will. But God in his mercy has provided a second line of defense—the Christians who exhort/admonish us. (MY BESETTING SINS: I hate to think what my life would be like without this kind of input!)

Do you believe this? Are you involved with and open enough about your life that other Christians could know when you need admonition? That you know when others need admonition? When was the last time you got admonished by/admonished another Christian? Heb. 3:13 says this should be a regular part of our spiritual lives (“every day”). If you can’t remember, do you realize that this is very dangerous?

Why are we so aversive to receiving and/or giving admonition? What is it that feels more dangerous than neglecting mutual admonition? This leads to the third conviction.

#3: God’s grace enables us to view admonition as loving discipline vs. condemnation

The third conviction is that God’s grace enables us to view admonition as loving discipline versus condemnation. “God’s grace” refers to the amazing gift that God gave us—Jesus bore God’s condemnation that my sins deserve so that I could be delivered forever from God’s condemnation and have peace with him (Rom. 5:1). A Christian is not someone who earns and keeps God’s acceptance by living a moral/religious life; a Christian is someone who has admitted this is impossible and has trusted Jesus alone to give him God’s acceptance as a free gift (GOSPEL). Because of God’s grace, I can admit that I am and remain a deeply sinful person, yet I can be absolutely secure in God’s love. The more deeply I live under God’s grace, the more free I also become from the fear of other people’s condemnation—a very deep fear indeed. It is this fear that often keeps us from receiving and giving admonition, even when we know we need it. But living with a focus on God’s grace puts me in the position to do this from the heart.

The more secure I am in God’s grace, the more I can receive admonition from other Christians without being devastated by it. Their admonition is not condemnation of my person from which I must protect myself at all costs; it is loving correction from my Father (Heb. 12:5,6a,10b,11) from which I can learn and benefit. Even if others admonish me in sinful anger, I can still hear it through the grid of God’s grace and often find truth that I need.

The more secure I am in God’s grace, the more I can risk giving admonition to others helpfully and humbly (Gal. 6:1). It frees me to give admonition to other Christians without being crippled by fear that they will reject me. They may reject me for it, but I am still secure in God’s grace, so I can take this risk for their benefit. In fact, if they reject me this will only push me deeper into the security of God’s grace. This also frees me to admonish gently and with humility (rather than in self-righteous anger) because I know that I could fall in this same way.

Have you received God’s grace (GOSPEL)? Are you growing in your understanding and appreciation of God’s grace in your life? Are you involved in a group of Christians who prize God’s grace and seek to apply it in their relationships? Are you beginning to consciously use God’s grace to fight your fear of human rejection through God’s grace? Have you experienced how this makes a difference in the way you receive admonition, and in your willingness to give admonition?

Conclusion

What one step can you take to make this “one another” more of a reality in your life? Is it to receive Christ? To get involved in a home group? To ask for counsel about an important decision? To thank someone who loved you enough to admonish you? To speak a corrective word to a brother or sister?
I urge you home group leaders to ask yourselves: “Am I modeling this “one another” with the people in our home group?”

NEXT WEEK, we will look at another counter-cultural “one another”—“Confess your sins to one another!”