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Proverbs 29:1 (NLT)

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.

In the original Hebrew, “stubbornly refuses” is describes as the hardening one’s neck. The famous pastor and evangelist, Charles Finney, expanded on this thought in a sermon from May of 1849 entitled, “The Self-Hardening Sinner’s Doom.” I wish more modern-day preachers had the intestinal fortitude to give their sermons such forceful names! Here is how he unpacks the hardening of one’s neck with respect to today’s Proverb:

“The figure is taken from the effect of the yoke on the bullock. Under constant pressure and friction, the skin becomes callous and past feeling. So, with the sinner’s conscience. His will has resisted truth…and rests in an attitude of rebellion against God. Reproofs which have heretofore chafed his sensibilities no longer reach them; friction and resistance have hardened his heart till he is past feeling. No dispensations of providence alarm him; no voice from God disturbs him.”

We tend to limit the notion of criticism to what other people have to say about us, but we must expand that understanding to fully grasp the implications of today’s passage. For the Believer, criticism also comes from the reading of the Word of God, the teaching of accurate and anointed pastors, the loving rebukes of a godly friend, and the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit. Do you read just to read…or to be examined by God’s Truth? Do you sit in church to check off that attendance box…or do you show up eager to learn, to be rebuked, and be changed? Do you give serious consideration to the wounds of a friend…or just look for the kisses of flattery? When the Holy Spirit convicts you…do you bend the knee in confession and repentance, or do you cash in another chip of cheap grace?

For those in Christ, a “stubborn refusal to accept criticism” will not damn them to Hell, praise God, for they are already eternally free from its grasp. But this “self-hardening” will serve to cut them off from the full benefits of God’s grace and blessings in this present life. Do not harden your heart to godly criticism, friend, for it is indeed one of the ways by which God is working to conform you into the image of His Son. Don’t be a fool and settle for something less than that.

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