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7 Steps To Your Best Rebuke Now

7 Stepz

Excuse the horrible title, but I wanted to use it to get your attention. Now that you’re here, let’s look at some principles for straightening the path of a brother or sister in Christ. These are based largely from a recent leadership training series at ACTS11 and on my experience.


1. Rebuke for the purpose of Christlikeness

As Christians on this Earth, we are experiencing a process of sanctification (2 Corinthians 3:18), where God’s ‘will for your life’ is to be like Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:3). One of the main ways the Holy Spirit transforms us to be more like Jesus is by speaking through the church to the church.

In the Old Testament, priests came to God on behalf of the people and prophets spoke to the people on behalf of God. The prophets convicted God’s people of their sin with ensuing judgement for their continued disobedience, yet pointed them to the coming Messiah.

This means that when we rebuke our brothers and sisters in love, helping them see their disobedience to the bible and encouraging them to be more like Christ, we’re ‘prophesying’. What greater privilege is there than to be part of God’s plan, with each other, in striving to “be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16)!


2. Rebuke in a manner of Christlikeness

Similarly, the way we rebuke a brother or sister should be like how Jesus would do it. We must not rebuke out of sinful motives, “rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Action out of selfish ambition is sinful in itself, but one should fear involving a fellow child of God to satisfy their pride or power in being “better than that sinner”. If you’ve thought about it, prayed (coming soon) and think you should rebuke a fellow sibling, then just do it.

Aristotle believed that ethos (perceived character of the speaker) is the most powerful component of persuasion, a common standard in the New Testament for messengers of God’s word. Therefore “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:16-17).


3. Kontext is Key

I did it. Alliteration. Poet application attached.

Moving along to the ‘more practical’ principles, context should always be considered. First thing’s first – avoid online confrontation! You can hardly do the rest of the tips here, and have your best rebuke now(!) over mere written words.

Likewise, it would be unwise to rebuke someone right after they commit a sin, especially in front of others. Emotions are likely to be peaking and they probably won’t hear and interpret the same message you intend and word in a hurry.

It’s not a good idea to humiliate the person and worsen the situation. Waiting till after the situation has passed (unless there is verbal, physical or spiritual danger) allows you to think about how you should approach them and also pray (coming soon I promise).

Another general guideline, especially with young teens and those of the opposite sex (who hopefully have a mentor of the same sex who should be discipling and disciplining them), is to be private in public. Being alone behind closed doors may be misinterpreted, or something bad might actually happen.


4. Get to the Heart

One framework Peter Ko loves teaching at ACTS11 is the heart idolatry of Approval, Affection, Power and Pleasure (AAPP). I wrote about this using the example of my sinful gaming addiction here. While we cannot be antinomians (no law), we cannot be legalists who only tell others to fix surface problems without getting to the heart.

When Jesus rebuked back in da old dayz, He saw right into their hearts (Luke 5:22; 6:8). We should have the same mindset even without God-ray vision. One way to do this and help them see the heart idols beneath their surface sin is by asking questions and listening well.

“Because we speak the same language, share many of the same experiences, live in the same community, and often attend the same church, it is easy to assume that we know more about people than we actually do.” (78, IRH Instructors Guide).

When talking with someone, get them to:

  • define their terms – “what did you mean when you said this?”
  • clarify what they mean – “could you give me an example?”
  • explain why they did something – “what thoughts or feelings provoked your action?”


5. Affirm the Positive with the Negative

Just like how the bible consists of gospel and law, our rebuke should not only contain judgement for sin. We should tell them the correct way to live, act and think, but also affirm the positive virtues in the vice. This relates to the idea of heart idolatry, where if we know that they’re seeking Approval, Affection, Power and Pleasure from something other than God, we can comfort and encourage along with our conviction and warning.

For example, when Paul spoke to some dudes in Athens, he didn’t condemn their religiosity, but condemned who they were religious toward (idols), pointing them toward Jesus who is the true and correct God to worship (Acts 17:16-34).

A few years ago Peter Ko rebuked a now co-leading brother and myself of our gaming addiction. He communicated the goodness in our passion to play, think and talk about games which should ultimately be centered around Jesus. He helped us picture what it would look like if we used our passion for Christ’s kingdom rather than wasting our lives on games.


6. Pray pRay prAy praY

There’s actually only 3 prayers I can think of… just let me practice being fancy!

Pray before talking to them, for God’s guidance and for Him to be speaking in and through you.
Pray with them “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 – there’s more to this passage but here’s a start).
Pray after talking to them, knowing that change often doesn’t happen instantaneously, especially for habitual sin.

If they would rather not pray with you or the situation calls for it, say a ‘Nehemiah prayer’ and speak to God when you have the chance (see Nehemiah 2:4-5).


7. Walk the Talk

We’ve seen that ethos (character) is the best way to persuade someone. The thing about rebuking others is that it’s part of a discipleship process. Jesus discipled His twelvie disciples over 3 years, most likely rebuking them for the purpose of Him-likeness more than is written in the gospels (probably cause they might’ve been embarrassed to write down their flaws or something stupid).

If you’ve kept up with my Grace Series, sanctification is God making us holy. Unlike the instantaneity of regeneration, it’s an on-going process that lasts throughout our lives. Therefore, we aren’t just disseminating information but helping people change through relational discipleship.

Studying and applying organisational change for businesses is easy compared to the relational struggle that comes with discipleship and mentoring. Unfortunately, firms can’t help other firms be more like Christ. Also think about the way it’s hard to break an annoying habit like biting your nails or cracking your neck – how much harder to kill “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1)!

Go for it, help each other be more like Jesus. What a glorious joy.


Further Reading & References

How People ChangeTimothy Lane & Paul Tripp. 
How People Grow, Henry Cloud & John Townsend. 
If only you knew what I know (Article), Tim Challies.
You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behaviour and Negative Emotions, Tim Chester.
Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change, Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer.
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (IRH): People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change, Paul Tripp. 

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