How God Rebukes Us

From eating vegetables to visiting the dentist, there are many things in life we need but do not want. To stay healthy, we endure needles, checkups, and the occasional cabbage, though we’d rather ignore them all.

As Christians, we don’t usually want God’s discipline. It’s painful, but we need it. Our disobedience is both offensive to God and bad for us. But God corrects us out of love; in fact, God proves we are his children through his discipline (Hebrews 12:7–8).

Fine. But how exactly does God rebuke us?

Providence or Revelation?

Many will point to circumstances. They cite the “difficult providences of God” (illness, loss of a job, natural disasters, etc.) as the way God shows his displeasure.

But outward suffering is no more evidence of sin than material blessing is a sign of obedience. (See Psalm 37Psalm 73, or Luke 13:1–5.) We rarely learn the reasons behind God’s providence.

However, the Bible provides direct revelation of God’s will. Even in difficult circumstances, God rebukes his children through his word. This happens in three main ways.

1. God’s Rebuke Through Preaching

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he included these words about the Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)

Since the phrase “man of God” recalls a common Old Testament term for a prophet, Paul probably had a pastor’s preaching in mind. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere that pastors/elders should rebuke those in error. (See especially 1 Tim 5:202 Tim 4:2Titus 1:91:132:15.)

Therefore, one of the purposes of a preacher’s message is to rebuke Christians.

Don’t get the wrong idea. You might dislike the idea of rebuke because you picture angry, fire-and-brimstone preachers heaping guilt on the congregation and bringing everyone to tears.

But rebuke is simply correction. God corrects us because it is better to obey than to disobey. Our blindness to sin (coupled with our forgetfulness) means we need a lot of correction.

Rebuke from the pulpit is the explanation and specific application of a Biblical text. This is what happened in Nehemiah 8, when the reading (verses 3–6) and explanation (verses 7 and 8) of the law prompted tears (verse 9) and extensive confession of sin (chapter 9).

2. God’s Rebuke Through Private Bible Reading

Though the words rebuke and reprove are often associated with preaching, the Holy Spirit can correct us in private. (See John 14:26 and John 16:13–15.) This usually happens during personal Bible reading.

We have a few Biblical examples. In Acts 8:26–40, we read that God prepared the Ethopian eunuch for Philip’s visit through private meditation on Isaiah 53. In 2 Kings 22:11–13, Josiah was convicted by a private reading of the law.

The Spirit convicts us as we read and study the Bible. To learn how to study the Bible, I recommend the book Knowable Word or this series of blog posts.

3. God’s Rebuke Through Other Christians

God also rebukes us through others. As examples, consider Priscilla and Aquila correcting Apollos in Acts 18:26 or Paul confronting Peter in Galatians 2:11–14. Jesus went beyond an example and commanded his disciples to rebuke brothers in sin (Luke 17:3–4).

Further, the language of reproof is all over Proverbs. Solomon assumes those seeking wisdom will give and receive correction.

Wise men love reproof (Prov 9:8), and there is honor for those who heed it (Prov 13:18). Rebuke goes deep into a man of understanding (Prov 17:10), and the wise reprover is like gold to those who will listen (Prov 25:12). In summary, fools resist instruction, but the wise seek it and grow.

This sort of rebuke happens when a friend applies Biblical truth to your life in a corrective way. By God’s grace, you see the need to change your thinking, your desires, or your behavior and you move forward in repentance.

Cultivate Humility

If God disciplines us in these ways, what does it mean for us?

In short, we should invite the Lord’s rebuke. That may sound scary, but encountering the Bible is a serious matter. Sometimes God’s correction is exactly what we need.

Before listening to the Bible taught or preached, before reading it privately or with your small group, pray that God would rebuke you as needed. Ask God to prepare you to receive correction from your friends.

This requires humility. We must acknowledge our weakness and sin; we should thank God for his wisdom and love in correcting us.

Any reproof we receive points us back to the gospel. The only correction Jesus justly received was the divine rebuke for our sin on the cross. His rebuke ensures that we are rebuked as forgiven children, not as exiled criminals. Further, Jesus’s perfect obedience secures the privilege we have of God’s fatherly correction.

And, thank God, it’s Jesus’s power that makes change possible.

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Links for the Weekend (10/18/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. (Just two links for you this week!)

8 Sins You Commit Whenever You Look at Porn

Pornography is a big problem—both in the world at large and in the church. Perhaps it’s obvious that we commit the sin of lust when we view porn, but Tim Challies suggests there are eight other sins we commit as well.

You commit the sin of sloth. We are called in all of life to “redeem the time,” to understand that we live short little lives and are responsible before God to make the most of every moment (Ephesians 5:16). Sloth is laziness, an unwillingness to use time well, and reflects a willingness to use time for destructive instead of constructive purposes. In that way pornography is slothful, a misuse of time. It is using precious moments, hours, and days to harm others instead of help them, to foster sin instead of kill sin, to backslide instead of grow, to pursue an idol instead of the living God.

J. I. Packer, 89, On Losing Sight But Seeing Christ

Here is an interview with J. I. Packer from back in 2016, shortly after he lost his ability to read. Packer is a faithful, long-term writer and speaker who has influenced many, and it is both sobering and encouraging to hear him talk about his condition and his hope.

Overall, would you say you’re encouraged?
Yes, I don’t see how any Christian under any circumstances can’t be encouraged who focuses on God. I don’t see how any Christian can be discouraged, because God is in charge—God knows what he’s doing, all things work together for good for those are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28), and our hope is in Christ. Those things don’t change, and those are the things to focus on.

Thanks to Phil A for his help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (10/11/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Two Habits of Successful Parents

Tim Challies writes about two trends he has noticed in parenting: “young parents aren’t asking seasoned parents for input or assistance” and “seasoned parents are reluctant to address concerns or offer assistance.” He offers some reasons why this might be and then suggests two habits that would be good for young parents in our churches to adopt.

There are few tasks you will undertake in life that are more important than raising children. It is an incredible honor that God allows us to create, birth, and raise other human beings made in his image. With this incredible honor comes great responsibility. You’re unlikely to fulfill this task well, or as well as you could have, without the input of the community God has given you. So take advantage of it! Learn to implement these basic habits of successful parents.

Wisely Handling the Book of Proverbs

Ligonier has published a nice introduction to Proverbs written by R.C. Sproul.

So, the book of Proverbs is concerned to give us practical guidelines for daily experience. It is a neglected treasure of the Old Testament, with untold riches lying in wait in its pages to guide our lives. It holds real, concrete advice that comes from the mind of God Himself. If we want wisdom, this is the fountain from which to drink. He who is foolish will neglect this fountain. He who is hungry for God’s wisdom will drink deeply from it. We need to listen to the wisdom of God so that we can cut through the many distractions and confusions of modern life. But, as with the entirety of the Word of God, we need to be zealous to learn how to handle the book of Proverbs properly.

Christian Reflections on Anger

Here are 8 theses on anger by David Qaoud, who recently preached on the topic.

Want to know your idols? Show me your unrighteous anger. Whenever you get angry, as I believe I heard Tim Keller once say, you should ask what you are defending. Your pride? What others think of you? Most unrighteous anger comes down to an aspiration to be sovereign over the universe, to have others stroke your ego. The next time you get angry over something silly ask yourself why you’re getting angry. Look closely, and you just might find something that you’re banking on for your identity.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called The Incarnation of Aaron. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (10/4/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Your Church Needs You to Sing

At Desiring God, Nick Aufenkamp writes about singing in church. I especially appreciated his teaching on how our singing testifies to God’s faithfulness and exhorts our fellow believers. Yet another way we need each other!

Singing is vital to the edification of the church. And it’s not enough that just a few people sing — Paul is telling you to sing for the benefit of your brothers and sisters. But how does your voice benefit your church — especially if your singing voice sounds like a dog’s howl?

The discipline of listening

When our friends are suffering, they often need our presence much more than a sermon. Sophia Lee has a great piece in World Magazine about the importance of sitting with our friends and listening to them.

I try to practice the grace, humility, and lovingkindness my friend demonstrated that day. It’s not easy, because I have to fight my natural inclinations toward impatience and selfishness and pride. But it’s also easy, because the burden isn’t on me to fix things—often impossible for anyone other than God—but to simply listen.

Finding Joy on the Other Side of Guilt

Here’s a story about the death of a pet ladybug and a lesson about the fallout from sin and the change the gospel brings.

Every day, I encounter opportunities to get it wrong and hurt people through my choices (because sin always hurts both myself and others). And sometimes I can stand there like my daughter, wracked with guilt over what I’ve done, not sure how to make things right. In that moment, Paul’s next words are like a cup of cold water for my soul: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (9/27/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Discipling Our Children Starts With a Question, Then an Answer

Autumn Kern writes at For The Church about using catechisms with her young daughter. This mode of education in the faith is centuries old and takes advantage of the way most children excel in memorization. I love the way this article connects these memorized questions and answers with a hope that God will bring about genuine regeneration and faith.

Think of catechism knowledge as biblical kindling for the heart. Use kindling to build a foundation for a good fire and, with eager anticipation, pray for the spark of the Holy Spirit to bring forth light.

Behold, the Fitness of a Box Cake

This is quite an honest, powerful post from Lore Ferguson Wilbert on her struggles with living in the body God has given her. Though she developed some unhealthy thinking about her body in the past, this year she is getting to know her body as a friend. You’ll have to read the whole thing, lest I make it sound trivial and/or New Age-y. It’s really good. (And I suspect that it will especially resonate with women.)

I have loathed the body I’ve been given by God and done my best to shape it into the body I want primarily by controlling my menu. Counting calories was my religion, weighing in was my proof (of my goodness or badness), food was my morality. If it was seasonal, whole, or from a local farmer: good. If it came from a box, was quick to make, or contained additives of any kind: bad. And I judged myself on these ethics.

6 Things You Should Know About Faith and Mental Illness

We don’t talk much about mental illness in the church. Some of this reluctance may come because we don’t yet know how to think about mental illness biblically. Michael Horton gives us a good starting place.

We would all like to reach a safe haven, a plateau of health, where we no longer struggle with sin or the physical and emotional pains of daily dying. But we don’t find this safe landing place in our experience either physically or spiritually. The only safe haven is Christ himself, who has objectively conquered sin and death, and who intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand until he raises us bodily for the everlasting Sabbath.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Heaven is a Person. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Heaven is a Person

I drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and take a deep breath. My shoulders loosen and I feel just a bit lighter. The salty air and sea gulls usher me into this familiar, wonderful place.

I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I love the water and the wide-open spaces; I love the farmland and country roads; I love all the sights and tastes and smells.

Heaven is a Place

You probably have your own favorite place like this. Maybe it’s the first house you remember, your college town, or the backyard where you began to raise your family.

As Christians, we read that heaven will be more than cotton-ball clouds, pearly gates, and harps, and it strikes a deep cord within us. Heaven will be tangible, not ethereal. And what’s more, heaven won’t just be our last place, but surely it must be the best place. All our attachment to places on this earth must be shadows of our longings for heaven.

When we learn that heaven is a place, questions are natural. What will it look like? What will we do? What will we eat?

On these matters, God isn’t silent. The last two chapters of Revelation give us some descriptions, and there are heavenly glimpses and images elsewhere in Scripture. But we end up with far more questions than answers, and we wonder: Why doesn’t God give us more information about the place—the city—where we’ll be spending eternity?

It’s Not About the Place

We read this after the very first mention of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)

This is primary—God will dwell with man. He will be our God and we will be his people. In other words: Heaven isn’t about the place, it’s about the Person.

God has given us some information about heaven, but consider how much more he has told us about himself! The Bible is stuffed with truths and stories about God’s character, his demands, and his grace. When we complain that we don’t know much about heaven, we’re missing the point. God has told us gobs about the most important feature of heaven—himself.

The reality of a new earth and a new body is mind-blowing; I don’t want to minimize this. But the most important—indeed, the most glorious, joyous, and rewarding fact about heaven is that God is there. With our new eyes, we will see him face to face. With no more curse, we will enjoy him in new and fulfilling ways we cannot imagine.

Long for heaven. Stretch for it. Gather everyone you can.

Heaven will be breathtaking, because God is there.

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Links for the Weekend (9/20/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

How Christians Can Prepare for the 2020 Election

Daniel Bennett writes about the tension and conflict that will likely surround the 2020 Presidential election. He offers three ways that Christians can prepare themselves to be salt and light.

Christians should take political engagement seriously for the sake of the kingdom, to seek justice, to defend the defenseless, and to love our neighbors. But whereas much political engagement today stems from fear, anger, and even despair, ours should stem from our identity in Christ. It should reflect our confidence that whatever happens in the state of earthly affairs, and regardless of temporal wins and losses, the King of glory remains on his throne.

The Church is a Means of Grace

This is a great reflection from a pastor on his children making a profession of faith and how influential the people at his church have been on those children.

You don’t just need good preaching and communion. You need the gospel community good preaching creates. You need a church family to whom you are joined in communion. You need them to uphold your weak faith, to walk with you during hard times. You need the church’s help, their friendship, prayers, meals, examples, and teamwork.

How Do I Know That God Is for Me?

A beautiful, simple reminder at the Ligonier blog from Sinclair Ferguson.

This is the whole point of Paul’s question in verse 32. We can be sure that God is for us because this God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up to the cross for us all.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (9/13/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

A Letter to a Reader about the Battle against Sin

I would guess most Christians have wrestled with this question as they walk with the Lord. And Barry York provides an excellent, short answer. Here’s the key question.

How can someone know if they are a legitimate Christian struggling with sin versus an unbeliever in sin? And what should a Christian struggling with sin do when he feels defeated?

How to Kill Your Anger so You Can Represent Christ to the World

How do you respond to anger from others directed at you? How do you respond to your own anger? Amy K. Hall helps us with sound advice from the Bible. We are not to fight anger with more anger.

Lest anyone think all anger must be expressed in order for one to be “healthy,” it’s important to note that ignoring your anger is not the same thing as fighting and killing it, though both are attempts to avoid expressing that anger against others. The first will only cause the anger to build up until you can’t ignore it anymore. The second dispenses with it in a way that glorifies God and respects the people around you.

God’s Sovereign Plans Behind Your Most Unproductive Days

In this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper answers a question from a listener who struggles with efficiency in her life. Piper works through an imaginary scenario—and then two passages from the Bible—to show us how God’s purposes may frustrate our desire for efficiency. Have a listen or read the transcript here.

Then walk in the peace and freedom that, when it shatters on the rocks of reality (which it will most days), you’re not being measured by God by how much you get done. You’re being measured by whether you trust the goodness and the wisdom and the sovereignty of God to work this new mess of inefficiency for his glory and the good of everyone involved, even when you can’t see how.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called God May Postpone Your Relief for His Glory. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

God May Postpone Your Relief for His Glory

The beginning of Exodus overflows with the oppression of God’s people. The Egyptians employed slavery, torture, and murder to keep the Hebrew people under foot.

But God’s compassion is equally evident in those chapters. It’s striking to read how God identifies with his people.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2.23–25)

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land…” (Exodus 3.7–8a)

The details of this story are familiar. God enlists Moses and Aaron in his rescue mission, and by the end of chapter 4 they have traveled back to Egypt from Midian. They are ready to confront Pharoah.

Because God is in control and cares for his suffering people, we might expect Pharoah to fold immediately. God snaps his fingers, and the Israelites drop their bricks and follow Moses out of town.

But that’s not how the story goes. In fact, Pharoah makes his slaves’ lives worse because of Moses’ intervention (Exodus 6). God told Moses that he would harden Pharoah’s heart, and it happens before our eyes.

Why is this? Why doesn’t God give immediate relief to his people?

God is the Lord

When we investigate the Biblical text, we see God is motivated by a concern for his glory.

Before God brings the first plague against Egypt, he tells Moses he will harden Pharoah’s heart. This message isn’t new, but this time we hear God’s design in the hardening.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:3, NASB)

And what’s the purpose of these signs and wonders?

The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. (Exodus 7:5, NASB)

God wants the Egyptians to know that he is the Lord. He says he will accomplish this for Pharoah when the Nile turns to blood. (Ex. 7:17)

Instead of an immediate release, God will bring Israel out through great judgments (Ex. 7:4). These plagues will bring glory to God by showing the Egyptians (including Pharoah) that he is the Lord.

Do you feel the tension? As the plagues stretch on, Israel is still in slavery. They still have backbreaking work and unreasonable quotas in front of them every day. I can imagine the people asking, “How long, O Lord?”

Waiting and Faith

God’s deliverance for Israel doesn’t follow our timeline. But this isn’t an issue only for his ancient people.

Consider the young woman struggling with chronic pain. Or the teenager overwhelmed by depression. Or the middle-aged man trapped in a soul-sucking job or a loveless marriage. These people of God cry out for relief. They get no answer and God seems distant and uncaring.

But the beginning of Exodus teaches that God’s compassion isn’t bound to time. He can be full of love and “slow” in providing relief. Before Moses returned to Egypt, it had been 40 years since Israel cried out to God. But Israel had probably been under Egyptian rule for hundreds of years.

God is vitally concerned about his glory, about humanity recognizing him for who he is. This includes the people around us, observing us as we wait for deliverance. It also includes we who wait. Waiting on God is the essence of faith.

We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Jesus didn’t get relief when he requested it. He didn’t get relief at all. The greatest display of God’s glory (the cross) involved God refusing relief to his own son. God was glorified in not showing compassion to Jesus so that his compassion could be multiplied to the nations.

As you ponder God’s delay, as you wait for his answer, remember that he is with you. He will glorify himself in your waiting.

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Links for the Weekend (9/6/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Nothing on Your Phone (Including TGC) Can Replace the Local Church

Brett McCracken has a great piece about the importance of the local church. The best books, articles, and sermon podcasts are no substitute for a local church family!

Just as material affluence can keep us from church on Sunday because we have the means for all manner of distraction (globetrotting vacations, weekends at the lake, NFL games on our 90-inch flatscreen), theological affluence can keep us from church because we have umpteen resources to fill our theological “tank” during the week. Why would we be desperate to attend church regularly, listening to our so-so pastor’s Sunday message, when we can listen to John Stott and John Piper sermons on our commute, five days a week? Doesn’t that check the box?

Humility Is Not Hating Yourself

To be humble isn’t to hide your talents or to hate yourself. Instead, following Tim Keller, Gavin Ortlund writes of humilty as self-forgetfulness.

So perhaps we get it backwards: we think humility is an impossible burden, but in reality it is as light as a feather. It is pride that makes life gray and drab; humility brings out the color. Why do we get this wrong? I don’t know, but part of the answer might be we simply misunderstand what humility is.

3 Ways to Kill Gossip

Gossip is easy to tolerate, and Costi Hinn shows us the danger of such tolerance. He also offers three tactics to fight gossip.

And so, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, the gossiper falls under the alluring power of Lucifer’s minions and begins to cannibalize the flock. All the while, dehumanizing the target of conversation and adding horrific caricatures along the way. Whether through the seed of bitterness, emotional venting, or purposeful slander, gossip works tirelessly to sink its teeth into open hearts.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.