Points to Ponder: Words to the Wise

Points to Ponder
Words to the Wise

God has blessed me with good mentors who have explained the Word of God to me, who lived it before my eyes, and who have ordered their own lives according to its precepts. Often as I prepare a message I will imagine my words proceeding from their mouths. Did it sound right? Does it still make sense to me as I first thought it, now that I've heard it in my mind as if it had come from one of them? It's one of several ways I try to check myself, to avoid error as much as possible.
"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow considering the outcome of their conduct." (Hebrews 13:7 NKJV)
I try to meet regularly or at least call several of these special leaders who have become friends, mentors, and confidants. There is a certain arrogance that easily grows within us, like weeds popping up in a garden, if we aren't regularly being accountable to someone who can and will be honest with us.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." (Proverbs 27:17 NKJV)
In addition to these persons of influence, God has also sent other special people into my life and ministry. At a Bible study, a church where I pastor or am invited to preach, or some other place, they write or speak directly to me about some doctrinal point, my handling of a Bible passage, or the method or style I use in worship. I once was criticized in a note by a first-time visitor on a Communion Sunday. He found the use of leavened bread to be unscriptural, pointing out that leaven always represents sin in the Bible.
Okay, I took that under consideration and studied it awhile. It was an interesting point, but I don't think it means that using leavened bread is a violation of the sacredness and meaning of the Lord's Table. One Sunday it occurred to me, as I broke the puffed-up loaf, that perhaps the man's point was perfect for the occasion. The Bible says Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (I Peter 2:24); so we eat the bread in remembrance of how His body was broken for our sin. No doubt some legalist would probably argue with me on that view, but that's okay.
I seem to encounter these theological debates in the various places I've taught or preached. I enjoy the exchange and usually draw some kind of lesson from it. Even if I disagree with the person I often find myself considering their argument and thinking, "good point." The problem I have is that some of these folks attack my person rather than my point. It's sometimes hard to listen to their reasoning of a point because they come at me in such an unreasonable way. It's that old truth: "who you are is so loud that I can't hear what you're saying." I try to see past that and get to the substance. Sometimes I fail. Being human as well, I can tend to feel and even respond with an attitude of defensiveness. It's hard to reason with someone you feel is attacking, not your idea, but you.
If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and you seek to live by it, teach it, and proclaim it, the critiques will come. Some will be on the point of a verbal knife.
"There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health." (Proverbs 12:18 NKJV)
If you are one who breaks down easily when someone confronts you with an unpleasant truth, you may be silencing the messengers you need and whom God has sent. If people are apprehensive about sharing their observations with you because of how you'll receive it, you may wind up never receiving it. Avoiding the pain of knowing the unpleasant truth will not make it less unpleasant nor will it be less true.
Sometimes we're blessed to have wise people who know how to speak a hard thing gently or to disagree agreeably; but sometimes there's a swift kick in the rear that comes along. Like it or not we do well to lay it out before God and see if there's substance behind the slap. Is the Lord speaking in this? Am I willing to listen if He is? All human beings are imperfect but God uses them as vessels in service and also messengers of both encouragement and rebuke. It's important to be mindful of the condition of our heart and soul, to seek wisdom, to draw closer to the Lord, and to be willing to make course corrections as the Lord directs. We can never stop learning or growing.
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV)

This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.