The Benefits of Being Rebuked
The Benefits of Being Rebuked
I never enjoy being rebuked by someone else, but over time I have come to see the faithful rebuke of a friend as something of great value. The Scriptures tell us that the right kind of rebuke is an important way in which God cares for us, and in which we can care for each other.
The kind rebukePsalm 141:1–10
There have been times in my life when people have rebuked me out of kindness. It is never easy at the time. But, on reflection, I am so grateful to them. David regards the rebuke of the righteous person as kindness – like ‘oil on my head’ (v.5), because his desire is that not only his head, but every part of his body and his life, should honour God:
Lift your hands
‘May the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice’ (v.2). The lifting of hands to God symbolises an opening of the whole body to God.
Guard your lips
‘Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips’ (v.3). I often pray this before I give a talk or go into a meeting – that God will protect me from saying anything unhelpful, and that my words will be an encouragement and a blessing.
Watch your heart
‘Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil’ (v.4a). Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character. Your character becomes your life. It all starts in your heart.
Fix your eyes
‘My eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord’ (v.8a). We are urged to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2).
Lord, I lift my hands and voice to you in worship, and fix my eyes upon you. Set a guard over my mouth and lips, and keep my heart from evil.
The loving rebukeRevelation 3:7–22
Jesus loves you. When he allows you to go through the fire of rebuke, testing or discipline, he does so out of love. He says to the church in Philadelphia: ‘it’s you that I’ve loved... I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing’ (vv.9–10, MSG). He says to the church in Laodicea: ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline’ (v.19). How should you respond?
Make the most of every opportunity
Jesus is holy and true and he ‘holds the key… What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open’ (v.7). If you are unsure about, for example, a job or relationship, ask God to shut the door if it is not right, or to open the door if it is.
On at least two occasions in my life God has closed the door on something that I very much wanted, and which I believed at the time was God’s will. Praying and struggling, I tried to force the doors open – but they remained shut. I was bitterly disappointed. But, years later, I am very grateful and now understand why he closed those doors. (However, I’m not sure I will ever know, this side of heaven, why God has closed other doors in my life).
The Spirit continues, ‘See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut’ (v.8). Sometimes God places before you a door of opportunity. If he opens the door, no human being can shut it. You may come under great attack but, if Jesus opens the door, you can be confident that he is in control.
This does not mean passively waiting for the doors to open. Often, we have to take the first steps in faith. It is rather like approaching automatic doors – you have to take a step forward before you see whether or not the doors open.
This church in Philadelphia has little strength, yet it has kept Jesus’ word and not denied his name (v.8). They have endured patiently and Jesus promises to keep them from the hour of trial (v.10).
Humanly speaking, this church does not appear to have been particularly impressive. Yet Jesus has no words of criticism for it. His perspective can often be very different from ours, and faithfulness to him matters far more than outward signs of size or strength.
His message is simply: hold on to what you have. He promises that those who overcome will be made pillars in the temple of God. His name will be written on them (v.12). Your future is utterly secure.
Open your heart to Jesus
The harshest words of Jesus are reserved for the church at Laodicea (vv.15–17). The church in Laodicea was like so much of the church in the West. At one level, it was ‘successful’ – Laodicea was a place famous for its banks and industry. But spiritually they were proud, ‘lukewarm’, ‘wretched’, ‘pitiful’, spiritually ‘poor, blind and naked’ (v.17). I find these words deeply challenging.
Yet, there is hope here. We are still loved by the Lord (v.19). He urges us to acquire real treasure, refined in the fire, so that we may become spiritually rich (v.18a). The only way to cover our shameful nakedness is with his robes of righteousness (v.18b). We need his salve on our eyes to remove our spiritual blindness (v.18c).
As we go through the refiner’s fire it is a form of discipline (v.19). It has a purpose. He wants us to ‘be earnest, and repent’ (v.19).
It is in this context that this wonderful and famous verse is found: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me’ (v.20). Eating together is a sign of the intimate friendship that Jesus offers to all those who open the door of their lives to him.
There is only one handle and it is on the inside of the door*. In other words, you have to open the door to let Jesus into your heart. Jesus will never force his way in. He gives you the freedom to choose. It is up to you whether or not you open the door to him. If you do, he promises, ‘I will come in and eat with them and they with me.’
Lord, I repent of the times when I have been lukewarm, half-hearted, complacent and spiritually poor. I long for a greater intimacy with you. Come and fill me today with your Holy Spirit.
The wise rebukeEsther 2:19–5:14
My father was Jewish and many of my Jewish family perished in the concentration camps during the holocaust.
But anti-Semitism is not a recent phenomenon. Here in the book of Esther, set in the fifth century BC, we read of appalling anti-Semitism. Esther had to keep her background a secret (2:20). Haman wanted to ‘annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and little children – on a single day… and to plunder their goods’ (3:13).
Mordecai’s response was to tear his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and wail loudly and bitterly (4:1). Effectively, he was calling on God for help.
Mordecai realised that Esther, his adopted daughter, was in a position to make a difference. Esther pointed out the problems of her situation, and how it would be very difficult for her to help (vv.9–11).
Mordecai’s response was in effect the wise rebuke of a parent: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’ (vv.13–14).
Esther realised that God had put her in that position for a purpose. You too have a purpose. Many people go through life without meaning or ultimate purpose, trying to pursue their own agenda – not realising that God’s purposes are so much better. You are alive today in order to fulfil God’s purposes for this generation. Whatever position you are in, believe that you are there ‘for such a time as this’.
Esther listened to Mordecai’s wise words. She asked the people to fast for her and said, ‘I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish’ (v.16). There is risk involved. We only have one life. We have to go for it. If we perish, we perish. But better to take the risk than never to have tried. May we rather be like Esther – utterly dependent on God and willing to risk our lives to save the lives of others.
Lord, help me to listen to wise and kind rebukes. As I go through the refiner’s fire, purify my heart, that I may love you more fully, seize every opportunity of life and serve you wholeheartedly.
Esther was not just a pretty face. She was someone in the right place willing to make a daring stand against injustice. She didn’t do it alone and she didn’t rush in. She prayed, planned, and made it happen at the right moment. She used a brilliant mixture of bravery, faith and skill.
Are there any opportunities for you to make a stand against injustice?
Verse of the Day
‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me’ (Revelation 3:20).
*The pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt (1827-1910) inspired by this verse, painted ‘Light of the World’. He painted three versions in all – the most famous still hangs in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Jesus, the Light of the World, stands at a door which is overgrown with ivy and weeds. The door clearly represents the door of someone’s life. This person has never invited Jesus to come into his or her life. Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. He is awaiting a response. He wants to come in and be part of that person’s life. Apparently, someone said to Holman Hunt that he had made a mistake. They told him, ‘you have forgotten to paint a handle on the door.’
‘Oh no,’ replied Hunt, ‘that is deliberate. There is only one handle and that is on the inside.’
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Unless otherwise stated.