by Bryan Ho

As we come to the end of this very difficult year, and as we pause for a moment to reflect on it, a plethora of thoughts flash by. In these moments of reflection, usually many people will come up with new resolutions for the coming new year. These “New Year Resolutions” are, generally personal commitments that one makes with oneself to be better than the year before or to achieve something that has not been achieved in the current year. It is safe to say, no one makes a resolution to be worse off than what he or she already is.

Exploring this line of thought further, in order to achieve your resolution or personal goal, whatever that may be, change is required and before that change can happen, I believe we must first recognize our mistakes and shortcomings and then be willing to be corrected. Only then can we change our previous ways or methods to give ourselves every chance of achieving the resolutions that are set.

1.     The Scripture tells us in 2 Tim 3:16,17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

We are not to use our own wisdom or expertise when we speak to others, but we must always use the Scriptures as our source of truth. The Word of God should be used to teach another what is right and truthful. It should be used to admonish or reprove a person for his wrong beliefs and behaviour. It must also be used to correct and restore the person to the right way. And, finally, the Scriptures should be used to train the person in the way of righteousness.

2.     The result is that one may be equipped for every good deed. God intends for us do good works. Eph 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

3.     Even the old covenant writings were used in admonishment and correction. Pro 6:23 “For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life”

David also writes of the benefits of the Word of God to his life. Psa 19:7-11 “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”

We need to be “warned” by them for our own good.

4.     Paul told Timothy how he was to use the Word of God in his life. 2 Tim 4:2 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all  longsuffering and teaching.” Notice that the convincing, rebuking, and exhorting must be done with the right attitude – with patience. 

2 Tim 2:24-25 “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”. Notice that patience coupled with gentleness are required when correcting.

5.     The Lord wants us to correct others – especially those close to us, those in our family, and those within the family of God, but He wants us to have pure motives and a sincere heart as we do this correcting. Notice a few passages that show us this inner attitude that must accompany an outward admonishment:

Spirituality and gentleness: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you will not be tempted” Gal 6:1.

Kindness, patience, and gentleness: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Tim 2:24-25.

Sincerity and lack of hypocrisy: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” Matt 7:5.

Love: “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” Pro 27:5.

Righteousness: “Let the righteous strike me, it shall be a kindness” Psa 141:5a.

Love and Gentleness: “What do you desire?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor 4:21.

Brotherliness: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” 2 Thess 3:15.

Since God uses other people to show us our faults and help us to effect change in our life, let us openly welcome this for our own good! Let us never refuse to be corrected, never reject someone’s admonishment, or never take lightly the critical comments of another person. While it is easier to be corrected by a kind and gentle person, let us even welcome someone’s harsh or unkind criticism.

It may be that we can even learn something of value from a rebuke that we consider unjustified and unfair. Let us have the heart to receive correction! So much value may come from negative comments from others. What we may consider “negative” may actually include some helpful admonition that could improve our walk with the Lord and make us a better person.

7.     The Scriptures frequently emphasize the benefits of receiving counsel and admonition.  Notice this passage that we cited before: “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” Pro 27:5-6a. This speaks of love that offers us a rebuke and the “faithful” wounds of a friend. Yes, this rebuke may give us a “wound” but the outcome can be positive. Another passage we noticed earlier says it well: “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it” Psa 141:5. In this case, the admonition is likened to being smitten but the result is refreshing and positive. 

8.     Correction helps us to grow. Are we wise and understanding to welcome it for our own good and well-being? Pro 17:10, “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”

9.     Benefits to being open to correction. Pro 15:32, ”Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” Pro 15:5b, “He who regards reproof is sensible.” Pro 19:25, “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.”

10.     The two possible responses to correction are vividly set forth in Pro 9:7-10:

“He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Notice the response of the scoffer. The scoffer will insult the person who approaches him with admonition. He will also “hate” the one who offers a legitimate correction. We have probably all known people like this. We approach a person with love and kindness and with a sincere desire to help by admonishing the person. But instead of receiving our correction, the person reacts.

He may “clam up” and refuse to speak. He may withdraw from us and refuse to have contact with us. He may be “hurt” for he is unwilling to admit his error and his opinion of himself is so high that he refuses to acknowledge that he is wrong. Instead of solidifying a relationship, the offended person rejects us and obstinately remains in his error and sin.

On the other hand, notice the very different response of the godly and righteous person who values knowledge and is open to change. Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Pro 9: 8).  If a person has spiritual wisdom, he will “love” the person who brings a word of reproof! Instead of hating the admonisher (as the scoffer did), the wise person will love the admonisher for he represents the opportunity to learn, to grow, to better understand God’s will, and to improve one’s own character. 

Again, the passage shows the connection between admonishment and growth in knowledge: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Pro 9:9). This shows a connection between being a “wise” person who craves more knowledge and the “righteous” person who will grow in learning. They go hand in hand. The truly wise person, with God’s wisdom, will be a righteous man, and a righteous man will have spiritual wisdom. The important point is that this person will be very open to the reproof and correction of another person.

11.     Why should we value correction? Notice a few benefits that come through sincere correction:

· We can learn of our “blind spots” that we formerly did not see

· We can glean from the insights of others who know the Scriptures

· We may be able to see how certain biblical passages and teachings bear on our life situation

· We can be warned of our spiritual state if we have come to a point of apathy or carelessness

· We can be encouraged to look at our situation in life differently

· We can be called to our attention certain faults that another sees but we have overlooked

· We can be exhorted to greater love and good deeds

· We can be admonished to look at our heart and life more carefully

· We can be shown our character defects and our lack of Christ-likeness in some measure.

Whatever our resolutions are in the year ahead, I pray that through humbleness and sincere desire to be corrected thus affecting changes in our Christian life, that we may be more Christ-like so that we can build up one another and make the journey to Heaven together!