“The cross of Christ reminds me that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. And because of this, God has thoroughly and forever accepted me in Christ.
Here is how grace works: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:13f).
What a sure foundation for the soul! Now, I don’t practice self-justification, but boasting—boasting about Christ’s righteousness for me.
If you truly take this to heart, the whole world can stand against you, denounce you, or criticize you, and you will be able to reply, “If God has justified me, who can condemn me?” “If God justifies me, accepts me, and will never forsake me, then why should I feel insecure and fear criticism?” “Christ took my sins, and I receive His Spirit. Christ takes my condemnation, and I receive His righteousness.”
In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me.
In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.
If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.
- Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom. 8:33–34a).
- Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it (Ps. 141:5).
If I know myself as crucified with Christ, I can now receive another’s criticism with this attitude:
‘You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid.’
The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father. They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings. His reminders are meant to humble me, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth.
I do not fear man’s criticism for I have already agreed with God’s criticism. And I do not look ultimately for man’s approval for I have gained by grace God’s approval.
In fact, His love for me helps me to hear correction and criticism as a kindness, oil on my head, from my Father who loves me and says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son’ (Heb. 12:5–6).”
–Alfred J. Poirier, “The Cross and Criticism,” ed. David A. Powlison, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 3, Spring 1999 17 (1999): 18-20.