Confrontation: What It Is and Its Necessity
This is the first in the series: Confrontation: What it is and Its Necessity. This five-part series adds clarity and direction in the area of one-on-one ministry. The word confront like many words in the culture today is considered unbecoming. Today it carries the idea of harshness, hostility and in-your-face. However, meanings of the word confront found in various dictionaries include oppose; face to face; deal with something often directly; and present somebody with something. Simply it means to face, to encounter, and to challenge.
It seems interesting to me that in true biblical preaching, the preacher is trained and is expected to bring God’s truth to bear on the congregation. Even then, many in the pews do not want the preacher to “get-to-close.” They have failed to be taught and accept the truth regarding confrontation: what it is and its necessity. It is one of God’s tool to stimulate His people. By that, I mean people do not want the preacher to be as was Nathan the prophet who said to David: You are the man (2 Samuel 12:7). Fewer respond as David did: I have sinned against the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13).
The word, confront, was associated with the term nouthetic counseling, the initial designation for true biblical counseling. An exposition of the origin of the name is not important. A proper understanding of the word is important. Therefore, consider these facts.
Every person – believer and unbeliever – is created by God for God. Moreover, every person is a theologian because he or she is created an image bearer of God; every person is a relational being – in or out of proper relation to God and to others. Every person is a thinking, rational being and has beliefs about God. Further, he lives in God’s world such that God is man’s environment (Psalm 139). He cannot escape God and truth! Yet he tries (Romans 1:18-23)
Moreover, every person is revelational. He was created to receive, correctly interpret, and correctly implement God’s revelation. Therefore, every person received counsel before sin entered the world. Every person is a counselee – and every person is a counselor – he gives advice, direction, and counsel.
The term confront is a relational term because man is a theologian. Post-fall, he lives in God’s world intially as His enemy until saved. Theology focuses on life and the God of life. Sin entered the world through rebellion – in heaven by the angels and in the Garden through Adam.
Man was created a chooser and seeker. The issue has always been who will he chose and why. Because of sin and man’s sinfulness every person is an enemy of God manifested primarily as ignorance and arrogance. As a result of the fall, every person is a strong-willed opposer to God (Romans 1:18-23). This opposition is summarized as my word vs. God’s word and my way vs. God’s way (Proverbs 3:5-8; 4:18-19).
Since the fall, sin, misery, and death entered the world; as a result, there are multiple and various problems (John 16:33; Romans 5:12-14). Since man is an image bearer of God who lives in God’s world as a theologian, every problem at its core is a theological problem with a theological solution.
One-on-one ministry includes confrontation. True biblical counseling emphasizes Confrontation: what it is and its necessity. The problems encountered in counseling are relational and theological problems with theological answers. How did God address man in the Garden prior to sin? In Genesis 1:28, 2:15-17, God gave direction – concrete ones – even before the fall. He confronted them with Himself and His truth. Such is confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
In Genesis 3, after sin, God confronted Adam and Eve. We are not given details of God’s encounter with the fallen angels, but they were sent packing in the first exile (2 Peter 2:4-6; Jude 5-8).
God did confront Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and has been confronting people ever since. God is the Confronter and Blesser. He confronts in and by His word (Hebrews 4:12), in His creation (Psalm 139 especially verses 1-2, 23-24; Romans 8:19-22), and by His Son who came to His own who rejected Him because they loved darkness (John 1:11; 3:17-21; 8:31-36). He confronts people, both saved and unsaved, with Himself and His word, and His way for His purpose which should be our purpose.
God in His love, mercy, and justice confronts people with truth. This is one of the most loving and wise activities that the Triune God does. Change is the essence of the believer who is the most changed person as a result of the activity of the Unchangeable God!
The what of confrontation is a given in our fallen world. The how is important as well. The two are linked and as a team confirm confrontation: what it is and its necessity. The how of confrontion will be discussed in the last section.
We are to confront people with truth relationally: how do we do it (Galatians 6:1-5)? When nouthetic counseling came onto the scene, the Church had moved toward the culture. Sadly, the trend continues! It is esemtial for God’s people to correctly understand: Confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
The church and spiritual leaders have become more and more culture-ized and psychologized. It embraces man’s view of man, problems, and solutions from the secular culture’s viewpoint. A pressing concern was expressed in the question: what was going to happen to the Church and God’s people? It is in that moment in history that nouthetic counseling entered the picture.
1. How do you respond to the statement: God is the Confronter? What is the significance of that statement and what are the means that God uses to confront people?
2. Define confrontation: what is it and its necessity.
3. What is its goal?
4. How have you responded to God’s confrontation?
Confrontation: What It Is and Its Necessity: Part I
This is the second in the series: Confrontation: What It is and Its Necessity. God is the Confronter par excellence. It is part of His capacity as Revealer. He demonstrated this activity in the Garden prior to Adam’s sin. He gave Adam and Eve marching orders be fruitful, multiply, subdue, and guard (Genesis 1:28; 2:15-17).
He continues to confront as a loving activity. He is truth and He desires to set prisoners free from the bondage to sin and sinfulness; from self; and from Satan and his approach to life.
The main thrust and goal for all one-on-one discipleship including true biblical counseling was and is captured in the phrase: change by care and confrontation out of concern for God and the person. Those four “Cs” carry the idea of putting into the mind which I discuss below. What does that mean?
Change is key. Change must occur in any person if there is to be life and abundant life (John 10:11). Otherwise left to himself, he lives and dies in his sin and sinfulness (Proverbs 5:21-22; 8:36; 13:15; 26:11). Change comes from the activity of the unchangeable God – the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). The change is necessary, radical, and supernatural. Theologians call this initial activity regeneration, the birth from above. Change continues in the process called progressive sanctification.
The fact of the radicalness of salvation parallels the radicalness of growth in Christ. The Holy Spirit-indwelt believer dies to self and self-pleasing because he is alive and active in pleasing God. Change and changing is key; the believer puts-off (undresses himself) and replaces habits of thinking, wanting, and doing that are directed toward self; he puts on new habits of thinking, wanting, and doing that are motivated and energized by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in and with the believer but never for or against him.
The issue for every person is changing into more Christlikeness or more satanic likeness. Every believer needs and must have help along the path of growth in Christlikeness. Old habits die hard (Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15). Such is one role of confrontation: what it is and its neccessity
Biblical counseling is a one-anothering ministry of the church (see my book in pre-publication: One Anothering). Based on Ephesians 4:11-14, the Church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to edify the body, to come to unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, so that the body of Christ is mature, and each individual believer reaches the fullness of Christ. That is a supernatural, radical task! True biblical counseling is a ministry of the Church that is designed to help the Church succeed in its mission.
There are eleven passages that use words referring to nouthetic. The verb (noutheteo) is used eight times and the noun (nonthesis) three times. The passages include Acts 20:31; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 14; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; and nouns: 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 6:4; Titus 3:10). The term is a Pauline one and means to put or place into the nous, which is commonly translated mind. It is most often translated as warn and admonish.
Biblical counseling is part of the ministry of the Church. It is an official ministry of the Church, but it is an activity that everyone is to do to himself and to others (Galatians 6:1-5; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Its goal no matter at what level is change into more and more Christlikeness.
Sometimes I think we get sloppy in our word usage. Mind and heart are almost biblical synonyms and refer to the activity of the heart especially thinking and wanting. Biblical counseling is an inside-out activity. By God’s creational design, a change in thinking and wanting results in changed action. Thinking, wanting, and doing are linked. Confrontation: what it is and its necessity is an integral part of the change process.
Consider and reconsider these facts: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are truth; truth sets you free; fallen mankind, believer and unbeliever have been and are in bondage. Moreover, Christ the Incarnate One confronted the world with Himself – truth – for God’s glory and the good of His people (John 1:1-11).
Thus, confront we must! It is what the Triune God has done before sin and is doing until Christ returns. It is what the Scripture does when engaged individually and heard from the pulpit (Hebrews 4:12). The question is how. In response to exhortation including moral and gospel exhortation a person often hardens his heart. In contrast questions often prick the conscience.
Jesus was a master at asking questions always moving to the heart of the matter which is the person’s heart (Proverbs 4:23). The goal was to impart wisdom so people would move from foolishness to fear of the Lord (Proverbs 2:1-10; 4:7). Only God’s truth sets the person free. There is no wisdom other than God’s. These principles help highlight confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
- According to Ephesians 4:11-14, what is a function of the Church?
- What is its goal?
- Biblical counseling is part of the official ministry of the Church; but it is something everyone does to himself and to others. How are you doing in co fronting self and others?
- How have you responded to God’s confrontation?
Biblical Examples: Part II
This third section of the series: Confrontation: What it is and Its Necessity begins a look at several biblical examples demonstrating biblical confrontation. I have already mentioned David and Nathan, their story found in 2 Samuel 12. Through a narrative, Nathan appealed to David’s who still had a heart after God’s own heart (1 Samul 13:44). Nathan even at the potential of a grave risk to himself confronted king David. Change was the result (2 Samuel 12:13)
A second example is found in the book of Job specifically chapters Job 38-42. Remember, Job was having one heck of a time! He started well (Job 1:20-22; 2:10), but as he continued in his situation, Job demanded that God explain Himself. Job functioned as the confronter and God the confronteeI He had missed the truth of confrontation: what it is and its neccessity. But he would learn both!
According to Job, God had made a mistake and needed to be accountable! God spoke out of the whirlwind which is His overwhelming majestic presence. In response, Job shut his mouth despite his physical affliction, his previous poor counsel, and his seemingly unanswered demands. Job did respond verbally speak twice (40:1-5; 42:2-6). He repented of his thoughts, words, and approach to God in chapter 42.
In those chapters (38-42), Job did not mention his body problem; he was all ears and heart! He never learned why God ordained the situation. However, due to this confrontation, Job came to know and embrace the true God in a way he had not (Psalm 34:8; Philippians 3:8-11). He rejoiced prior to God’s blessings on him and his family! Confrontation was his freind. He had learned truth regarding confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
Next, consider Haggai, a book of two chapters. The prophet confronts the Israelites. The Israelites were discontented, patterned self-pleasers who used God expecting only the good things of life. Post-exile and their return, they were to complete the building of the physical temple, the place of God’s presence. However, they neglected to care for their own hearts. Consequently, they built their own physical houses in place of God’s house.They had no interest in confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
In Haggai 2:3-5, the prophet confronts the people with a simple triad of be strong, work, and I am present. We do not know his tone or voice or manner of delivery. God would have described them if it were important for us to know. The phrase, I am with you, was well known to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:6-9). God’s presence with His people and their relationship with Him was to change their thinking and wanting about God, themselves, and life (God’s providence). Haggai told them – confronted them with truth – to get busy pleasing God rather than self! And they did!
These examples are certainly not exhaustive but illustrative. The point regarding confromntation: what is it and its neccessity is clear. God confronts His people, for their good and God’s glory. Next, we move to the New Testament. As he was closing his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote in verses 13-14 of chapter 16: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let everything you do be done with love. It sounds remarkably like Haggai’s counsel and confrontation.
The Corinthian Church had its share of problems and problem makers (1:10-17). The Holy Spirit is the same author of the Old and New Testaments. His message was clear. God is mighty and good. Therefore, get busy humbling themselves under His mighty hand. Paul wanted the Corinthians to grow in Christlikeness. The Corinthians for their own good tasted confrontation: what it is and its necessity. and were changed.
There are two confrontations from the book of Matthew that deserve mention as well. One is quite familiar. Peter speaking for the group made an amazing and supernatural declaration: Jesus is the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-17). However, just a few passages later (16:21-23) he confronts and rebukes Jesus with the statement: there must be no cross!
What a drastic about face. We know that Peter cared for Jesus; but he did not understand. He has ears and eyes but did not hear and see clearly. That would await the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 20 and Acts 2). In response Jesus confronts and rebukes Peter saying your thinking is satanic. We are not told of Peter’s response at that moment. However, reading 1 Peter confirms that Peter came to embrace confrontation: what it is and its necessity.
We know that Peter continued to function as the chief elder (John 21:15-20; 1 Peter 5:1-4) and he was the apostle to the Jews. Peter got the message. I suspect he never forgot that confrontation although Jesus confronted him in John 21 with a type of mind-your-own-business message. Peter asked if John, the apostle loved by Christ, would die a violent death (verses 21-22). Jesus told him that was no concern of his.
Jesus confronted His people and His enemies. It was always for the purpose of exposing hearts and developing maturity through knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Peter must have been forever grateful that Christ cared to bring change out of concern by confronting him.
Confrontation involves energy and knowledge – of God, self, the other person, and the situation. Jesus was the perfect Confronter! He did not need to ask questions. He knew. When He asked questions, it was not for His learning and benefit. It was intended for the glory of God and the person’s benefit. The person was to examine himself for growth in Christ or lack of it. Such is the ministry of the Word whether from the pulpit or one-on-one ministry.
- What is the purpose and goal of confrontation?
- What are the three C’s that follow confrontation?
- Who is to confront? Who do you begin with and what is your standard? What have been the results?
More Biblcal Examples: Part IV
This is the penultimate section of the series: Confrontation: What it is and Its Necessity. In this section, I look at events described in John’s gospel that complement the previous examples demonstrating biblical confrontation.
John, in his gospel, highlights several features regarding confrontation: what it is and its necessity. In chapter 1, he opens his gospel by confronting his readers with truth (1:1-5): Jesus is God, pre-existent, eternal, truth, and light. Later, he gives his purpose in writing in John 20:30-31: so that his readers may believe that Jesus is who He said He was – the Son of God – and that they may believe! John’s message is radical and requires a radical change in thinking, wanting, and doing!
In John 3 Jesus confronts Nicodemus a spiritual leader who visited Him at night. Much has been made about the timing of his one and only visit. He seems to be searching. All of mankind ids a seeker and searcher. So, it was with Nicodemus. He acknowledged Jesus as a teacher. We are not told just what teachings of Jesus he had heard.
John emphasizes the fact that Nicodemus knew that Jesus’ teachings were radical. He sought out Jesus apparently to get clarification. Jesus confronted him with truth: being born from heaven, from above, by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He thought that strange and in fact impossible. Jesus confronted him in verse 10: are you a teacher of Israel and do not know these things? Wow and wow! They had the Old Testament (Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26-27). The you is plural. Jesus was confronting and rebuking the Pharisees in general.
Jesus did not give him time to answer. He continued to teach truth about Himself, Nicodemus, the Jews, and mankind. There is reason to believe that Nicodemus became a believer. He protested the unfairness of Jesus’ trial and aided in Christ’s burial (John 7:50-52; 19:39-40). Like Peter, he probably never forgot Jesus’ confrontation with him.
In the next chapter, John 4, Jesus meets a woman, a Samaritan, at the well at noon. Jesus confronts her at the well with Himself, who is truth and living water. He asks her to draw water – to seek out life: vitality and refreshment. Jesus uses water, known as life-giving giving, to make the point regarding life, truth and eventually Himself (verse 7, 10, 13-15). She asks Him the reason a man and a Jew is asking her, a woman and Samaritan, for water.
He then confronts her about herself (verses 17-18). Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah: I am He (verse 26). These words are like the words that God used when He revealed Himself to Moses and that Jesus used in John 8 (Exodus 3:14; John 8:56-58. She acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah. Whether she was acknowledging Jesus as God it is not clear.
Both Nicodemus and the woman were confronted by a Person and with truth. The encounters were apparently radically life changing. Such it is when anyone is confronted with truth.
Lastly consider John 14:1-3. Jesus tells the men do not let their hearts be continually troubled. Jesus and the apostles are in the upper room the night before the crucifixion. The men are troubled in body and spirit – as a whole person. Uncertainty and danger were ever-present. Their thinking was helter-skelter. Their focus was on what they did not know rather than on what they knew and the apparent insignificance of who they were in Christ. They knew neither Christ nor themselves (14:4-5, 6-9).
The word for trouble indicates a churning within, an agitation. It is easily pictured by an old-fashioned, tub-type washing machine which washes clothes by a constant back and forth motion. That night, the stakes were high and death for Jesus and perhaps all of them were a reality.
Jesus confronts them with truth in this dynamic and in-the-dark type of situation, but which was part of God’s providence. They were not victims! Neither was the sinless Jesus who also had had a troubled heart – a churning within in both body and spirit (John 12:27). However, He knew who He was and where He was going; that truth controlled Him in this and every situation.
Moreover, He counseled Himself and them. He told them not to continue in their present troubled mindset and response. His message: cease troubling your heart! The reason: I am going to heaven to get your room ready for you. It is good that I go. Therefore, trust in Me and in the Father. These men had work to do: develop the foundation for the universal Church (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:20).
The circumstances, as serious as they were, did not preclude confrontation. In fact, they demanded it. Some may say that the apostles could not handle truth due to their situation. They were victims to and in their circumstances. Those thoughts and statements are tantamount to saying that they could not handle Jesus, who is truth! Jesus knew better. He gave them exactly what they needed: Himself!
These snippets from Scripture make the point: confront. How you do it and when you do it are factors to consider. Relationships matter both vertical (yours and the person’s to God) and horizontal (you to the person and the person to you). You give the person including yourself the truth which is most appropriate for that person given your relationship with him, his spiritual maturity, and his willingness to be taught and to change.
- What do the examples teach about confrontation?
- What is your response to them?
- How will you begin to or continue to confront yourself and others as a mean of becoming more like Christ?
The How of Confrontation: Part V
In this last section, of Confrontation: What is it and its Necessity, I address the topic of the how of confrontation. The Bible teaches truths that are motivating, challenging, and penetrating. Truth is designed to stir up every person from the inside out. Truth moves to the heart of the person which is every person’s heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Given those truths plus the facts that truth sets one free and falsehood holds a person is bondage, the believer must seek ways to confront himself and others. The Bible sets forth general principles as well as examples.
First, truth and love are linked. God is love (1 John 4:7-12) and the Triune God is truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 11:10; John 14:17, 15:26; 16:13). The believer is called to a ministry of love and truth thus imitating Christ. Paul highlights this truth in Ephesians 4:15, 25 when he commands: speak to the truth in love. Truth without love is not truth and love without truth is not love.
Facts are only an aspect of truth. They are interpreted based on one’s interpretative grid: God’s truth or human logic divorced from biblical truth. The result of any interpretation influences how a person thinks, desires, and acts. Speaking the truth involves love and loving; these function as a regulator or controller of how you present truth.
Second, love and friendship are linked (John 13:34-35; 15:12-15). Jesus gave the apostles and the Church a new and old command – love one another. He demonstrated the essence, magnitude, majesty, and wisdom of it during His life, while on the cross, and post-resurrection!
Jesus knew and experienced the truth that loving friends consistently is hard but loving your enemy is impossible. Jesus filled the Law full of its true meaning (Matthew 5:17-20). The apostles moved from being acquaintances to His friends. Jesus invested Himself in them. He does this today and in every age via the Holy Spirit who indwells the Church and individual believers.
Third, truth, love, and wisdom are linked as well. Confrontation involves bringing truth to bear on the person. The goal is Christlikeness. In keeping with this goal, the confronter remembers who he is – a fellow sinner saved by grace; who the person is – a brother or sister in the family of God; and who God – the God of truth, love, and wisdom who brings people to Himself via the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Confronter. Fellow saints remember how God confronted them and the results!
Paul defended his ministry – for God’s honor and glory. He knew the message, messenger, and Message Sender were linked. To that end he came to the Corinthians with godly wisdom – not his own or the world’s (1 Corinthians 2:1-6). He came with concerns regarding their lack of faithfulness (a major reason for confronting!) and of satanic deception and its acceptance within the church (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
Paul ministered the truth of Christ without charge – Christ paid it all (11:10)! It was a labor of love that cost him his life here on earth; he was confident in eternal life (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). He lived as if one foot was already in heaven!
Fourth, since the truth sets a person free including the confronter and confrontee, each must know the truth and how to apply it. A foundational principle for both parties is the importance of proper knowledge of biblical truth and understanding that man is an inside-out person. Knowing God’s truth and the person in his or her situation is of vital importance for God-honoring biblical confrontation. Thoughts, desires, and actions can be properly examined.
Moreover, confrontation is relational. Knowing and presenting truth comes in the context of a relationship. Relationships matter! A general principle to remember and apply is this: God-honoring change is key. The person who confronts and the confrontee may have a different view of the issue and the need to change. It is important that each understand God’s wisdom.
Biblical confrontation means presenting God’s truth to the person according to the relationship between them; the person’s spiritual maturity; and his or her willingness to listen, to learn, to love, and to change. Therefore, truth must be appropriate; it is to be given in the context of the situation and the person’s understanding of the situation, self, and God.
Presenting truth is a labor of love. The confronter must first be an experienced confrontee. Every believer is a confrontee according to Hebrews 4:12. The Word of God cuts and divides so that the heart is laid bare before God. In that way, the person is confronted with truth so that he walks in the light rather than in darkness (Proverbs 4:18-19; Ephesians 5:8-14),
Moreover, the believer grows, both confronter and confrontee, God is honored, and the Church fulfills one of its mission goals: believers grow up in the maturity of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-14). Such is the beauty and joy of confrontation: what is it and its necessity.
- Biblical confrontation is relational: explain.
- Biblical confrontation involves truth, love, and friendship: explain.
- Discuss the how of biblical confrontation. As you do think relationally, the goal of biblical confrontation, and the role of the confronter.