Pointing fellow believers to hard spiritual truths
As believers, we are called to instruct and correct one another. When God created us, He wired our brains for empathy. A signal goes off in us when we watch other people being destroyed spiritually. How can we obey such signals and lovingly point fellow believers to hard spiritual truths that can sometimes be contentious?
Jesus warned us that the way to eternal life with Him is both narrow and hard. We truly need to help each other find the path that leads to God. Otherwise, there is a danger that we become disoriented and lost, and eventually walk away from God.
Matthew 7:13-14 ESV “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
The primary focus on instructing or edifying fellow believers spiritually is to encourage one another to stay on this narrow path that leads to eternity with God.
- The spiritually idle | To earnestly advise, urge and admonish them to turn back to God.
- The fearful | To uplift, inspire and embolden them to keep trusting God.
- The spiritual weaker | To help, guide and build their spiritual maturity and perseverence.
1 Thessalonians 5:13-15 ESV And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
We sin when we fail to instruct each other
God created us to need one another. We are all blind to our own spiritual strongholds and need others to gently point out our blindspots. Otherwise, we are in danger of being deceived and destroyed by our sinful ways without even realising it.
Hebrews 3:13 ESV But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
We sin against our brothers and sisters in Christ when we ignore their errant ways and leave them to walk alone on a road of self destruction. When we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will humbly step up alongside them and ask, “Shall we consider another way that leads us closer to Jesus?”
We also rebel against God’s commandment when we don’t love others as we love ourselves. Often, we are more concerned with what others think about us. Hence, we don’t speak up. God however, calls “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it” a sinner too.
Matthew 22:37-39 ESV And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 4:17 ESV So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Watching each other’s backs against Satan
The failure to edify and instruct one another leaves entire churches vulnerable to spiritual attacks, because we don’t watch each other’s backs.
In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul talks about “speaking the truth in love” and building the unity and maturity of Jesus’ beloved church. We instruct one other so as to ensure we:
- are equipped for the work that God has prepared for us to do
- mature as believers
- stay united in love
- are not easily misled and deceived
- function properly as the Body of Christ in this world
Ephesians 4:12-16 ESV … to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 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.
Mutual instruction and edification are not meant to destroy our brothers and sisters in Christ. On the contrary, it is to restore them to fullness in Christ. Unconfessed sin is like an infection to the body of believers that spreads and weakens the entire body of believers. We need to stay spiritually healthy and walk together in unity. Godly discipline may feel unpleasant at first but it is necessary so that “what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed“.
Hebrews 12:11-14 ESV For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Ways to instruct someone spiritually
1. Pray and wait for the Holy Spirit
God has the perfect timing to bring someone to repentance and restoration. He knows their needs intimately. For instance, Jesus could have appeared to the apostle Paul earlier and stopped him from needlessly killing many Christians, but He only chose to do so on the road to Damascus. He has His own plans and we ought to work with Jesus, not against Him.
Therefore, let us not impulsively jump at any opportunity to edify and correct someone, particularly when we are not able to do so privately. We need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into the right conversations at the right time. God does not want anyone to perish nor does He want us to destroy them with our presumptions and thoughtlessness.
Matthew 18:14-15 ESV So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
2. Be gentle and respectful
We run our lives based on many subconscious patterns of thinking. When our thought and behavioural patterns are not submitted to God, we often form spiritual strongholds without realising it. It can therefore be quite shocking if someone encourages us to re-consider our hardened ways.
Edification must therefore be done with great gentleness, impartiality and respect. We must be prepared to be rebuffed and to always respond with soft humble answers. People often need to process instructions in their own unique ways and not everyone will respond as we expect. As long as we humbly follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to edify others, we can trust that He will do the rest of the work by convicting their hearts and guiding them forward.
James 3:17 ESV But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Proverbs 15:1 ESV A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
It is imperative we fight any compulsion to become impatient, defensive or self-righteous. Otherwise, we will only push away those whom we wish to help.
3. Focus on the need, not the problem
Our conversations should always start with a genuine interest in people and their needs, fears, and motivations. We do them a grave injustice when we form opinions about them without seeking to understand their upbringings, experiences, and longings. God’s Word calls us to build others up according to their needs, not according to our views. The best edification always begins with listening and seeking to understand someone’s needs first before we speak. Our hearts are almost never won over by accusations, arguments, and judgments. Such things only build walls between people.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
James 1:19 ESV Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
4. Love comes before instruction
When we seek to instruct someone, we need to be sincere about loving them first. Just as Jesus came to serve us, we ought to take on a servant attitude when we edify others. It is imperative that we are vulnerable and testify to our own sins and weaknesses, and seek to serve others without any personal benefit or expectations. Our love should not waver even if we are rejected.
1 Peter 4:8 ESV Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Also, see Speaking the truth in love.
5. Point to God’s desires for us
Let us encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to calibrate their lives so they are able to focus on loving God with all their hearts and souls. We do this best when we remind them of God’s love, power, and grace and His Word. Let us be inspired and led by the Holy Spirit to speak words of life that bring hope, rather than words of death that bring fear and dread.
Colossians 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
- Instructing the spiritually idle
|Relationship with God||
“May I ask if anything has been preventing you from experiencing God’s peace and joy recently?”
|Testimony||“It appears that you may be going through something I have experienced before. May I share my experience with you?”|
- Instructing the fearful
|Relationship with God||
“May I ask if you have any difficulty trusting God? Shall we look at some promises from God’s Word together?”
|Testimony||“I used to doubt that God would see me through difficult situations but this is what I have learnt…”|
- Instructing the spiritual weaker
|Relationship with God||
“It pains me to notice certain patterns in your life that could be grieving God. May I have your permission to share some observations please?“
|Testimony||“I’ve recently learnt something that convicted my heart about (topic). May I share it with you too?”|
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Here are some practical other suggestions we can keep in mind:
- Discretely pray to silence any unbelief in Jesus’ name before we start sharing.
- Start with a prayer together with our listener if possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead in His love, to open both our hearts and to bring revelation and truth to our awareness.
- Always start with sharing about our own journeys of learning and obeying hard biblical truths and the rewards that come with that. Share testimonies and God’s Word in equal measures.
- Use the same words and terminologies they use so as to stay on the same page as them.
- Aim to address their hearts. Lovingly reflect back to our listeners any hardened attitudes that they may not be aware of and ask them how they would feel if someone said the same things to them, and how God must feel.
- Invite them to do their own research on God’s Word and compare it with the world’s teachings.
- Challenge them to ask God directly what He thinks.
6. Offer ongoing support
God created us to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He desires us to care for others in the Body of Christ so that we can grow stronger together and rejoice. The path to eternal life can be hard to walk alone, especially when we are surrounded by so many confusing, conflicting and deceptive messages. We are certainly stronger and wiser together. Praise God that we have one another to watch each other’s backs.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26 ESV … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Also, see mentoring skills
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