As Buddy was abused before I rescued him through Silky Terrier Rescue, I have usually rely upon the more modern approach of dog obedience: praise every time he does something correct. The only time I use more harsh methods is if he is in immediate danger, like trying to get under my legs when I’m driving down the freeway. He is generally a good-natured and sweet boy who, though willful like most terriers, is fairly well-behaved.
This is merely my opinion, but I believe that when the Church is in imbalance, it gives an opportunity for bad teaching to enter.
When the Church is overly focused on rebuking, rather than, praising/encouraging believers.
“…our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”–Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Under the Old Covenant, before Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and resurrected to raise us into new life with Him, people were made right with God through following a set of rules for living, as detailed in the Old Testament Law given to the Jewish people through Moses. This is the “letter” that “kills” referred to by Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians. The Old Covenant Law was given to show humanity their complete inability to follow it perfectly, to prove their need for a New Covenant through the blood of a someone who could totally fulfill the rules 100%: Jesus Christ, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Shortly after leaving Egypt during the Great Exodus, the Jewish people promised Moses that they would obey all that God commanded and worship Him only, but they couldn’t even keep their promise long enough to wait for Moses to return from the mountaintop before creating a golden calf to worship and dance before. They weren’t lying: they just couldn’t obey because as, unredeemed people, they didn’t have the Holy Spirit to assist them.
What I have found, after being a Christian for 30 years now, is that many pastors are very good at rebuking and exhorting the people of their congregations. But not so good at encouraging them. I think the reason is that they are eager for the people to obey God and be a positive influence in their city and culture, to stand out in a godless society to help lead others into a relationship with the Lord.
But, this is my opinion, most pastors are not trusting the Holy Spirit within each believer to lead and guide them “in the paths of righteousness”. So they tend to focus on preaching that people should obey the Law and not so much on encouragement–or how to do so.
But Apostle Paul made it clear, not only in the above verses from Corinthians, that the Law kills, but that we do not grow in sanctification, i.e. become more godly people in our walk with God–by obeying the letter of the Law but by focusing on Christ.
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is from Galatians, where the Apostle Paul rebukes the Galatians for trying to obey the Old Testament Law instead of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are so you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, as you now being perfected by the flesh?”–Galatians 3:1-3
Apostle Paul was pointing out that the Christian believer came into fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the Old Testament Law. They had witnessed the Holy Christ die for their sins. They received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit by believing in Christ’s sacrifice for their sin, not by following the Old Testament Law. Paul pointed out that they were to walk in faith, to trust in Jesus as their righteousness, and not in how well they could obey.
I hope you are still following me here. The prosperity preachers focus on God’s blessings and encouragement of believers because too many preachers are focused on exhortation, leaving many persons feeling dispirited and discouraged after a sermon. I’m not advocating that pastors should never rebuke or talk about God’s standards. But they need to balance out their rebuke and call to holy living with positive messages.
Many pastors focus on what the believer can do FOR God. They make the Gospel bad news because, after a person is convicted of their sin, convinced that they are unholy in their behavior, the new believer is exhorted that they have to try really hard to meet those impossible standards.
But the Gospel isn’t bad news: It’s good news.
It’s about what Jesus DID. The focus is on God and not on us.
God initiates a relationship with us and we receive it by His grace as a freely given gift (Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot earn it.
Charles Spurgeon, the great Victorian preacher in London, got the balance just right, in my opinion. His focus was not on what the believer could do FOR God, but always on what we can do BECAUSE OF Jesus. We are victorious BECAUSE JESUS has already won the victory over sin, death and Satan at the Cross. We can walk in the newness of life BECAUSE JESUS took our sins upon Himself and crucified them on His Cross.
When I was a young believer, I got involved in an ungodly relationship with a nonbeliever. The Holy Spirit made me horrendously miserable in my soul till I gave up the relationship. God also sat a pastor next to me during an airplane trip who gently rebuked me. The Great Shepherd kept His promise to keep me on that path of righteousness for His namesake. The pressure of the Holy Spirit was reinforced by the pastor, but without God’s pressure In my soul–my desire to obey God because I had become a “slave of obedience” (Romans 6:16)–the rebuke wouldn’t have “stuck”.
It’s about Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s not about us.
It’s about God keeping His promise, as our great Shepherd, to lead us and guide us.
Let the true Church get back into balance: rejecting the false promises of the prosperity teachers and encouraging the believer to walk by faith alone in Christ alone.
Let’s keep the focus on Jesus, the eternal God, and get it off ourselves.
“And, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”–Jesus, John 12:32
Lift up Jesus.
If you don’t know Jesus, why not ask Him to reveal Himself to you? If you are sincere, He will, because He loves you and wants you to be in a relationship with Him. How He does this is as individual as each of us are.
I’ve been absent for several months as firstly, I had foot surgery, then spent a week in Alaska with no Internet service, then packed and moved from Washington State to Arizona. It was an exhausting move for both Buddy and I to our new home, more so than I had expected. I hope to be back on track now.
I very much appreciate your reading my blog. I hope today’s blog is helpful to you. Though the language is more florid than we are accustomed to nowadays, I heartily encourage you to read some of Pastor Spurgeon’s sermons. Particularly his sermons on spiritual warfare. You’ll feel even more impassioned about what Christ has done for you.