Christians are not only called to repentance but are also called to call others to repentance. This is often one of the hardest tasks in the Christian life. How do we approach someone who is sinning in a way that will help lead them to repentance?
An Informed Approach
If we want to help a sinner stop sinning, we need to study sin. We can do this by studying our own sinful hearts and the way sin begins, develops, and expands there. Though probably not on our summer reading list, we can also study sobering and searching books on sin.
- John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen
- Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
- Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins
- Jeremiah Burroughs: The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin
A Humble Approach
Remember that you are a sinner. Before we start rebuking sin in others, we must rebuke it in ourself first and most.
A Gentle Approach
Whether the person has asked us for help, we are offering help, or a friend has asked us to help, we need to approach humbly, quietly, and lovingly. Raise the subject in the context of the Gospel of Grace and our own need and experience of it for our own sins and struggles (Gal. 6:1).
A Hopeful Approach
Although the sin may be wide, deep, high, and long, the Gospel is wider, deeper, higher, and longer. The goal is to help the sinner see the seriousness of sin, the misery of sin, and all that God can offer through the Gospel to conquer both.
A Biblical Approach
Phrases to avoid: “I think…In my opinion…I don’t agree…”
Phrases to use: ‘The Bible says…God’s Word tells us…The Scriptures are clear…”
A God-Centered Approach
We cannot fix anyone; only God can. Point the sinner away from yourself and to:
- God’s sovereignty: He is in this, is in control, this is part of His plan, and He can even work it for your good.
- God’s holiness: This is both our model and our motive (1 Pet. 1:16).
- God’s wisdom: God knows all the answers and has a solution.
- God’s power: especially when we feel our powerlessness.
- God’s love: Willing to forgive, heal, accept, restore (1 John 1:9).
- God’s Son: Show them the suitability, sufficiency, willingness, and ability of Christ to save.
- God’s justice: He won’t stand by and see His law broken and smashed to pieces.
A Realistic Approach
Be realistic about the sin. Call it what it is. Don’t soft-pedal or soft-filter it.
Be realistic about time. Rarely will a person change immediately or perfectly.
Be realistic about the difficulty. There’s going to be resistance, pain, failure, and disappointment along the way.
A Wise Approach
Choose the right place (not Starbucks).
Choose the right time for you and the other person (not too little time, not too late, not too busy and stressed).
Choose the right words: take account of the person’s world, vocabulary, education.
A Questioning Approach
It’s often better to question than to accuse, at least to begin with. Try to get the person to supply the answers and draw the conclusions rather than you telling them. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some good questions to ask when trying to help someone stop sinning.
A Prayerful Approach
Pray without ceasing: before the conversation, during the conversation, and after the conversation. Pray for the person and with the person.
What else have you found helpful in these difficult though necessary conversations?