Friday, June 29, 2007
The last thing you need to hear, especially if you're still also lacking in a true and genuine conviction over your sin, is more flattering talk about how "great and valuable you are" or how "you need more self-esteem" or how "Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life." No, as John Flavel so eliquoently put it:
"If dying to self is the great work of any human soul in order to go to heaven, and scripture plainly states that it is, then those people that give the corruption of pride and self-righteousness in us occasion to rise up within ourselves do not help us, but rather, they do us a very harmful disservice. Those people and preachers are not our best friends who stir the pride of our hearts by the flattery of their lips. Although we would do well to acknowledge the grace of God when it is active in the lives of others and use words of encouragement wisely and cautiously when our friends are disheartened, the most godly person scarcely shows their own weakness in any one thing more than being glad to hear people talk highly of them. Oh my brothers and sisters, thou carriest gun-powder about thee! You would be wise, therefore, to request others to keep the fire of their flattery at a distance from you. It is a dangerous crisis when a proud heart meets with flattering lips.
There is a well known story that is told of a great German theologian who, when his companion began to compliment his life upon his death bed, said, "Take away the fire for there is still combustible matter about me." Oh how wise he was! Faithful, seasonable, discreet reproofs are much more safe to us and to our advantage than flattering, flowery words. But alas! How few have the wisdom and love to duly administer them?
It is said of Alexander that he fired a philosopher who had been with him for many years because he said, "You have been with me a long time, and yet, you have never reproved me which must be your fault because either you saw nothing in me which needed to be reproved which argues your ignorance or you dared not reprove me which argues of your unfaithfulness."
Oh may it be known: a faithful friend is a faithful reprover, and a wise and faithful reprover is of singular use to any person who is sincerely engaged in trying to please God and save their own souls!"
...And John Flavel was absolutely right! We don't do anybody any favors by soft petaling the truth or outright avoiding the truth simply to make our listeners "feel good or encouraged. No, quite the opposite: A faithful and true friend will give you the straight story in love. Yet, sadly, our secular bookstores are just filled with misleading books that completely circumvent the root issue of sin and judgment and human depravity, and instead, they try to make people merely feel good about themselves with a host of homemade remedies and self-help strategies that are designed to tell us what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.
- Mark Kielar
(and John Flavel [1627-1691])