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TEXT: I Peter 3:15
SUBJECT: Baxter on Witnessing #4
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our study of Richard Baxter on Witnessing. Thus far, we've seen why to witness--and how. Now we come to the topic how to reprove sin.
Speaking up for Christ means speaking out against sin. No one comes to the Savior unless he feels the need for a Savior. No one feels that until he is convicted of his sin and guilt. Thus, part of getting a person saved is getting him lost. And that means rebuking his sin and urging to him repentance.
When it comes to reproving sin, most of us make of one two opposite mistakes. Either doing nothing at all or overdoing it and being rude and obnoxious about it. Neither one is pleasing to the Lord; and neither one is likely to win the sinner to Christ.
To help us rebuke sin more effectively, Baxter offers much good counsel. Here's some of it.
REMEMBER WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO DO.
"Be sure first that your reproof has a right goal; and then let the manner be suited to that end. If it is to convince and convert a soul, it must be done in a manner likely to prevail".
This, I think, is the most important thing he says on the matter. When you're rebuking sin, what are you trying to do? If you're trying to seem "holier than thou", then be as arrogant as possible. If you're trying to win an argument, don't let the other person get a word in edge-wise.
But if you're trying to win a soul, treat him with respect and patience. You can do this without compromising the Gospel or approving his sin. The last thing you want to do is to speak or act in such a way as to shut off future communication.
Paul is a good example. No one was bolder than he. Yet his preaching was winsome enough that many people would keep listening. At Athens, some mocked but others said,
"We will hear you again on this matter".
The same thing occurred with Felix. Paul "reasoned with him of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come". The Roman Judge didn't believe, of course, but neither did he slam the door on Paul,
"When I have a convenient season, I will call for you".
Very few people believe the first time you talk to them. Remember that--and talk to them in such a way that you'll get a second chance, a third, and so on.
And so Number One is: Remember what you're trying to do. In rebuking sin, you're trying to win the sinner to Christ.
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT
"Be sure that you reprove not that as sin which is not sin; either by mistaking the law or the fact".
What is sin? Most people define sin as "Whatever I don't like". In fact, "Sin is transgression of the Law" (I John 3:4)--God's Law. Thus, you have no right to criticize in others what God doesn't criticize. If you're going to speak out against someone's sin, be sure it is a sin.
And be sure he's guilty of it. Appearances may deceive; hearsay is wrong more often than it's right.
James 1:19 speak directly to the issue,
"Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath".
STAY WITH THE BIG SINS
"Choose not the smallest sins to reprove...for conscience will be but little moved by your speech, while greater things will more easily affect them".
Remember: You're not alone when you rebuke sin. According to Romans 1, the unbeliever knows that what he does is wrong. Whatever his mouth says, his conscience agrees with you. But what sort of sins is he most aware of? And most sensitive to? Romans 1, again, says the big sins. Things like atheism, idolatry, immorality, ingratitude, and bitterness.
Spend your time on these--and not trifles.
CHOOSE YOUR TIME WISELY
"Take a fit season. Not when a man is drunk or in a rage or among others where the rebuke will embarrass and harden him, but in secret (if his conversion be your goal)".
When it comes to rebuking sin, our Lord said,
"Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, turn, and tear you".
In other words, there is a time to keep your mouth shut. When a man is drunk or enraged or out of his mind in some other way, he's in no shape to listen and consider what you say. Hold it till he's thinking straight.
The other part is: Don't rebuke him in public, where he's likely to become defensive. Talk to him later, when he's more likely to be reasonable.
The truest words may be spoken at the wrong time. And do more harm than good. Thus, choose your time wisely. The Proverb says,
"A word spoken in due season, how good it is!"
"Do all in love and tender pity. If you do not convince the sinner that you do it in love, you must expect to lose your labor".
This is a place we often go wrong. We speak to sinners as though he are better than they are. We are not! Or, as though we'd be happy to see them damned. We wouldn't be!
I know you feel these things for the lost. But do you communicate that feeling? With the words you choose? With your tone of voice? With your body language? With your patience? And with your helpfulness?
The message of Jesus Christ must be delivered in the manner of Jesus Christ. No one hated sin more than He. Yet though He hated the sin, He loved the sinner. Though sin made His blood boil, sinners made Him weep with compassion.
SHOW THEM THE BETTER WAY
"Be more in showing the good to which you would turn them than in the evil from which you would turn them...for they are not converted till they are won to the love of God and holiness".
What make sin so bad is that it perverts the good God has for us. Thus, one part of rebuking sin is showing how much better it is to serve God. And how much happier it makes us.
Hence, the best way you can rebuke others for their love of money is to show them how much happier God makes you than money makes them. This can be done, partly in Word, but mostly, in deed.
Let them see that you've got what they're looking for...in all the wrong place.
USE GOD'S WORD
"Do all with Divine authority. Have ready some plain texts of Scripture for the duty and against the sin you speak of. Show them where God Himself has said it".
Why should your lost friend listen to you? If you say, "Cursing is wrong", why should he take your word for it? Your opinion is no better than his; and mine is no better than yours.
When rebuking sin, you've got to do better than say, "I think this...My church says that...Most people believe the other...and so on. It doesn't matter what I think or my church says or most people believe. Only God matters!
What does He say about cursing? Or fornication? Or the love of money? Or unbelief? You know what He says. Now, go tell your lost friends. But don't tell them as though His Word were nothing more than "what you believe"! Tell them, "God says..."
The Bible never promises success to people who give their opinions, cite statistics, or parrot the teaching of their Church. No, the Promise of God is attached to His Word.
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I have sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
"Is not My word like a fire--says the Lord--and like a Hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29).
"He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (Psalm 107:20).
It is the Word that convicts, converts, and sanctifies sinners. Use it!
"If you know any near you who are more likely to prevail, procure them..."
If your lost friend won't listen to you, maybe he'll listen to someone else. Or, if you don't know how to answer his questions, find someone who does. If you can't think of anyone to ask for help, ask the Lord to send someone to you.
IF YOU CAN'T TALK TO THEM, WEEP FOR THEM
"When you cannot speak, or when your speaking does not prevail, mourn for them and earnestly pray for their recovery. A sigh or a tear for a sinner may his heart when an exhortation will not. He has a heart of stone who will not feel his condition when he sees another weeping for him".
People can make you stop witnessing to them. They can't make you stop praying for them or weeping for their lost condition. Do what you can. Maybe your tears will move them in a way your words cannot.
CLOSE AND APPEAL
Baxter has told you how to rebuke sin. There's plenty of it all around you. Why don't you rebuke some? Not to vent your spleen, of course, or to look super-holy, but to break the sinner's heart and bring him to Christ?
God make us better witnesses than we are. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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