In recent weeks, John MacArthur on his blog has given correction and advice to the Young, Restless and Reformed. (here, here, here and here) The response is interesting. Some have encouraged the YRRs to listen the advice, but many YRRs have responded negatively. If you read through the comments on the Grace to You blog, you get a taste of the conversation.
My intention in writing is not to enter the discussion. After all, I no longer fit the young modifier, and I would really like to get more rest. I do lean toward the Reformed side of things, but doubt that I would be considered a card-carrying member by those in the movement. Rather than enter that discussion, I want to talk about a spiritual issue related to that. How do we receive correction, advice and instruction? How do we listen to those with whom we may disagree but who have something important to say to us? In other words, how do we become teachable?
These are not issues confined to the YRRs. We all struggle with these issues. While I would say, based on personal experience, that young adults struggle with this more, I have known some older ones that aren’t very receptive to the teaching, advice and correction of others either. My own progress toward maturity has included going from defending myself against the slightest criticism to politely saying thank you while fuming inside to learning to take time to hear what the Lord is saying to me through the criticism or correction. Often, I still slip into defensive mode.
At the heart of this defensiveness usually is not righteous indignation against injustice suffered. Rather the heart of it is sin. I get defensive because I feel insecure about what I am doing. I don’t like my weaknesses being pointed out and I don’t want to feel shame. I get defensive because I am full of pride. I really don’t like being told I’m wrong, because I think I am right or mostly right. I get defensive because I simply don’t like other people teaching me, advising me and correcting me. They don’t have my credentials or my knowledge, and after all, they are always against me or just don’t understand me. Besides, their theology and politics probably aren’t right, either.
In the center of every reaction above is me. It is all about me. I am protecting myself. I am being self-defensive and selfish. What is worse: I am dooming myself to failure and immaturity if I allow this to become the character of my life. A key to success in any endeavor is to be teachable: to learn to accept criticism and instruction, to apply it, and to grow. An athlete who doesn’t listen to his coach will ride the bench. A student who doesn’t learn from the professor will fail the class. A business person who doesn’t take advice will go out of business. A politician who doesn’t listen to the people will become a member of Congress, which is either the exception to the rule or its own worse punishment. A Christian who fails to learn and to receive correction from others will stagnate in immaturity and not achieve the purpose for which God has called him or her heavenward in Christ Jesus.
So, how do we learn to be teachable? How do I learn from others to grow in maturity as a follower of Christ?
Of first importance is to walk near to God (James 4:8). By truly applying myself to be in prayer and in the Bible, and not just going through the motions of spiritual discipline, I am close enough to God to recognize when He is correcting me through others. By knowing the Word of God, I know when what others say is in line with Scripture, and I know that I need to pay attention. By being near to God, I recognize His voice.
I also must crucify myself daily (Luke 9:23 and Galatians 5:24) Since self is the center of my rebellion and defensive, I must get self out of the way so that I can receive truth from others. By crucifying the flesh, I mortify those sinful responses that I make to others.
I must learn to listen and be slow to speak (James 1:19-20). The temptation is to respond and to defend one’s self. The best response comes after understanding what the other person has said, and often that response turns out to be, “You’re right.” I must learn to receive anything that is true according to God’s Word and that helps me grow more holy and more able to glorify God.
Hopefully, this is helpful to many of you. Perhaps, soon, I will write on how to become someone who can speak into the lives of others.