A state of the heart that rejected admonition was characteristic of Israel at various periods in her history, and these periods were invariably followed by judgment. When Christ came to the Jews, He found them full of arrogant self-confidence that would not accept reproof. “We are Abraham’s seed,” they said coldly when He talked to them about their sin and need of salvation. The common people heard Him and repented, but the Jewish priests had ruled the roost too long to be willing to surrender their privilege position. Like an old king, they had become accustomed to being right all the time. To reprove them was to insult them since they were beyond reproof.
Churches, organizations, and individuals have shown a tendency to fall into the the same error that destroyed Israel–an inability to receive admonition. After a time of growth and successful labor comes the deadly psychology of self-congratulations. Success itself becomes the cause of future failure. The leaders come to view themselves as the very chosen of God, as special objects of divine favor, since their success is proof enough that this is so. They must, therefore, be right and anyone tries to call them to account is instantly written off as an unauthorized meddler who should be ashamed to reprove those better than him.
If anyone imagines that we are merely playing with words, let him approach at random any religious leader and call attention to the weaknesses and sins in his organization. Such a one will surely get a quick brush off and if he dares to persist, he will be confronted with arguments and proof that he is dead wrong and completely out of order. “We be the seed of Abraham” will be the burden of defense. And who would find fault with Abraham’s seed?
Those who have already entered the state where they can no longer receive admonition are not likely to profit by this warning. After a man has gone over the cliff of being unable to receive admonition, there is not much you can do for him. But we can place markers along the way to prevent the next traveler from the same danger. Here are a few markers—
1. Don’t defend your church, your organization or yourself against criticism. If the criticism is false, it can do no harm; if it is true, you need to hear it and do something about it.
2. Don’t be concerned over what you have accomplished but rather be concerned with what you might have been able to accomplish, had you followed the Lord completely. It is better to say and to feel, “We are unprofitable servants; we have only done that which is our duty to do.”
3. When reproved or admonished, don’t concern yourself much with the source of the correction. Don’t worry about whether it is a friend or enemy. [That others need to always “earn the right” to be used to admonish us is not taught in the Bible.] An enemy is often of greater value to you than a friend because he is not influenced by sympathy toward you.
4. Keep your heart open to the correction of the Lord and be willing to receive His chastisement regardless of who holds the whip. The great saints all learned to taking a licking gracefully. That may be why they were great saints.
– A. W. Tozer
How to Know if You are a Theological or Spiritual “Know-It-All”
Am I still teachable? Do I seek counsel and input from other godly brothers? Can I hear a sermon and benefit from it through someone who I think is theologically weaker? Do I have the attitude that I am right about all issues? Even if I know I am not right about everything, do I give the impression to others that I am right? Do I have to have the last word in a spiritual discussion? Do I have to be interesting rather than be interested in others? If others express a different viewpoint, do I always have to have the last word to help them see things more clearly? Am I defensive when others admonish or correct me? If I think others ought to receive truth through me, do I receive truth through others, even if it is not pleasant? Do others possibly see me as a know-it-all or do they see humility, teachability and a heart that received admonition? In short, do I still welcome and receive admonition or do I only give it to others?
If I have the tendency to correct everything I hear from others that I disagree with, then I am a know-it-all.
If I have to “police” every thing anyone says on Facebook or in an email, and challenge or correct them immediately, then I am a know-it-all.
If I view my position as always being the right one, then I am a know-it-all.
If I have an attitude that I am right most of the time, then I am a know-it-all.
If I don’t give others the grace to grow and mature in their understanding but rather expect them to always be where I am or where I think they should be, then I am not relating to other sheep as Christ does and therefore, I am a know-it-all.
If I am a know-it-all, I am most likely blind to it, but others already see it about me.
If others think I am right all the time, then I have set myself up to being a know-it-all.
If I never or rarely ever ask other brother’s thoughts on Scripture, so as to gain more insight, then I may be a know-it-all.
A know-it-all is an evangelical Pharisee. Are you one? Surely not–you know too much!
If I am or might be a know-it-all, then I need to repent of my pharisaical and superior attitude and stop evaluating everyone that disagrees with me; I need to take a real look in the mirror and I might still be able to see some blemishes. If I can, then there is still hope for me.
It would do us well to read again the book of Lamentations, which says, “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40
– Mack Tomlinson