Rebuke is Just Fuel for the Fire

It’s a reminder of the role heat can play in promoting purity. Leave precious metals at room temperature and they can look pretty precious. But apply the right amount of heat and the dross becomes evident. A scum forms on the surface of the molten metal. The dregs once hidden now rise to the surface. The impurities once concealed become evident. At that point, you either deal with the revealed uncleanness by removing it, or you let it settle back in to continue to defile, mar, and impede the potential of these metals created for unique purposes.

This morning, Wisdom says that God will turn up the heat on our hearts in order deal with impurities there as well.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
   and the LORD tests hearts.

(Proverbs 17:3 ESV)

While the end product is worth it, the process isn’t much fun . . . not for the silver, not for the gold, not for our hearts. Uncomfortable at the very least, but as the temperature increases, perhaps approaching unbearable. Much easier to try and remove yourself from the fire than allow it to do it’s refining work of driving hidden junk to the surface.

And while we can meditate on the number of ways God might “turn up the heat” on our hearts in order to bring stuff that needs to be dealt with into the open, this morning it’s another verse in Proverbs 17 that has me thinking about one particular type of fuel for the fire. Rebuke.

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
   than a hundred blows into a fool.

(Proverbs 17:10 ESV)

The NIV says that rebuke “impresses a man of discernment more.” The NKJV, that it “is more effective.” But the more literal translation of the ESV explains why. Because it “goes deeper.”

A person of understanding, a person who has invited Wisdom in, and in whom Wisdom is active, while having no more natural affection for correction than anyone else, will be “pressed down” by reproof. It will penetrate deeper. It will cut further. It will hurt more. Why? Because Wisdom is doing her work as the Spirit of God takes the rebuke and fuels the fire revealing more of the impurities.

To be honest. I don’t much care for being rebuked. I know it’s “good for me”, but I don’t like it. I’ve learned to invite “feedback” and know that it’s “a gift,” but most often I’m not crazy about receiving the gift.

How come? If it’s beneficial why am I not more excited by it? Because I don’t like the heat being turned up. As the correction descends, the process that reveals the heart gets increasingly uncomfortable. My initial reaction, my fleshly reaction, is to ignore it, or dismiss it, or rationalize it away. Because rebuke fuels the fire of God’s revealing work.

And beyond the hot-seat dynamic of correction, I’m not much of a fan of seeing what surfaces when the Tester of Hearts actually tests my heart. When He brings to the surface things I’d just as soon leave buried. When He assays what I would naturally choose to ignore.

But a man who welcomes understanding, a woman who embraces wisdom, people who have been given the mind of Christ, will submit to the testing of their hearts. They will deal with the penetrating discomfort of rebuke as it fuels the purifying fire of the Spirit and reveals stuff that needs to be dealt with if they are to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ.

Not much fun. But part of sanctification’s process. And continuing evidence of God’s love for His children.

“For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 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.

(Hebrews 12:6, 10b-11 ESV)

Rebuke is just fuel for the fire.

And this too, by His grace and for His glory.

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