This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part V

This was my second Homiletics class sermon I persented in class when I was at Florida Baptist Theological College in Graceville, FL, on October 3, 1991.  My professor then was Dr. Jerry Windsor, who had just joined the faculty that year after spending several years as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Graceville.  I also have the privelege of this sermon being on video as well.

Marks of True Exhortation

Outline of Text:

1.  They are without error
2.  It is a work of faith, labored in love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 1:3)
3.  It is pure (I Thessalonians 2:3)
4.  It does not please men, but glorifies God (I Thessalonians 2:4)
5.  It does not use flattering words (2:5)
6.  It must be in truth, grounded in love (Ephesians 4:15)
     a.  If more truth than love, it becomes legalistic
     b.  If more love than truth, it becomes a shattered dream
7.  It must be without anger
8.  It must be grounded in the Word

The subject of exhortation is a major part of my personal ministry.   It is something that the Lord has been training me in for a long time.  The reason for this is simply that the Church has lost the value of exhortation, and we do not practice it out of fear that it might offend someone.  However, I will tell you right now that the modern Christian community has become lax and compromising, and as a result sin and compromise have invaded a lot of church sanctuaries.  The Full Gospel is not being taught.  If we as believers love the people we serve and want them saved from hell, we have to tell them like it is.  Like physical children so often need correction from their parents, so also do we need chastening from time to time from our Father in heaven; those of us in the ministry need it a lot!  Therefore, I can identify with this message personally.

I want to share with you eight traits of true exhortation, and as some of you may move in this gift, I encourage you to develop these.  The first trait of true exhortation is that it must be without error .  This means that when you exhort someone, you do not do it with the purpose of blanketing an ulterior motive that is vain and selfish.  This mistake is common of so teachers that the Bible describes as "having itching ears."  There are too many ear-ticklers out there today telling people what they want to hear rather than what they should hear;  therefore a lot of opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work in people's lives are lost.  This is why we, as ministers, must base anything we tell anyone on God's Word, or else it is false teaching, prophecy, etc.

The second trait is that exhortation is a work of faith, labored in love and patience.  Most exhortations are like a good dose of castor oil in that they are severely disagreeable going down, but do a cleansing on us inside.  It takes faith to deliver a true exhortation, and a person must really be in tune with God delivering it.  It is also a labor of love, for if you truly love your brother or sister in Christ, it will cause you to go to great lengths to do the right thing for them, even if it costs a friendship or marriage.  It is also a labor of patience, because in many cases an exhortation will knock its recipient off their high horse, and therefore the reaction may not be as favorable as it should be.   By using the formula in I Thessalonians 1:3, we can make life a lot easier for those we exhort, because eventually the person will understand what's going on, and God can then deal with the individual.

In the same verse above we find the third trait.  An exhortation does not come from deceit or uncleanliness, nor is it in guile.  Instead, it comes out straight, undiluted, and pure.  The words of a man or woman often reflect their spiritual condition.  Therefore, if we are used of God to exhort someone, we should perform a self-examination first, so that we do not do the Lord's work with sin or personal bias.  A word of God given in hypocrisy, despite the truth of it, will damage a personal testimony;  therefore, we must be extremely careful in the way we handle things.

Another extremely important trait is to be found in the next verse, and this concerns our tendency to give men what they want rather than what they need to hear.  Our duty is not to please men, but it is to please and glorify God who tests our hearts.  After all, was it a man that saved us by grace through faith?  Would that buddy at work or school have the power to save you?  Absolutely not!  Therefore, we are to do what the Father wants and not our own whims.

In verse 5 we have a related issue, which is far-fetched flattery.  Oh, how we love to have those pats on the back telling us how prosperous and successful we will be because God will bless us.  True enough, He will do that according to our needs, but how do we handle the trials and attacks of Satan?  Are we too afraid to share that this also is a promise?  God does indeed bless us, no doubt; however He will also test us, and those with a gift of prophecy cannot afford to be fortune-tellers for charity and neglect the rest of the story.  If we believe all the good things as truth, then we must also accept some of the bad, for some of those bad things work for God's good also.  Therefore, let us preach the whole Gospel and not just what sounds good.

In Ephesians 4"15 we find a very vital balance that we must achieve when we exhort one another in order that the end result may be edification.  To illustrate what happens when these are not in balance, one can look at the Pharisees and Saducees in the Bible.   The Pharisees had the truth, but did not have the love; the result of that was a rigid legalism that left no hope.   The Saducees had the concern for their fellow man, but failed to back it up with the Word of Divine Providence.   The result of that was a man-centered religious system that depended upon personality.  When the one being looked up to passed away, the idea died with him, thus solving no problems.  Through these two examples we must realize that truth and love are inseparable and must be used together to make things work.  The consequences are too great to neglect one and not the other.

The seventh of these traits is learning to discern between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of anger.  Too many times there are those in the Church who use their gifts as a defense mechanism, and as a result they hurt people because they minister with the wrong attitude.  I know, for I have made this error myself on one occasion involving a friend of mine.  Because I spoke out in anger to him in the Lord's name, I caused the guy to go into counseling for several days to heal the wound I inflicted upon him.  If you are upset with someone, do not use your spiritual gifts to take it out on them; this is what is knowm as "charismatic witchcraft" and we had better be careful of it.

Finally, all exhortation must be grounded in the truth of God's word, and must bear witness of Jesus Christ.  If it does not, then throw it out.   This point is directed at those who receive the word rather than those who give it, and it serves as a warning not to accept everything that is said until it is tested by God's Word first.  There are a lot of false ministers in the flock, and in order to expose them one has to be knowledgeable of the Holy Scripture.  I always advise everyone I teach or exhort that they are not to take my words to literal excess, but to check things out for themselves.  If something does not measure up, it needs to be disposed of. All ministers must do this for the sake of those they are charged to minister to.   If they do not, then I would suggest not giving them the time of day.  A minister should let his or her life be totally guided by the principles of the Scripture record, for if so, they will bear much fruit.

In closing, I would like you to be encouraged.   For those that know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, are you doing His work the way He showed you?   If not, then you need to spend a little time with Him, for if you don't, the blood of those you could have reached will come back to haunt you someday, and it won't be a pretty sight!  For those of you that do not know the Lord, you have two choices:  accept Him and receive peace and joy eternal, or reject Him and He will not know you, thus giving you first-class accomodations in Hotel Hades for indefinite eternity.   The choice is yours, and only you and not Mama, Daddy, or anyone else can make it for you.   While you still have time to make the choice, make the most of it.  There is not much time left.   The Lord could return at any moment, and if He did, you would be left to the mercy of the coming Antichrist, who has no mercy.   So come now, while there is still time, for it is the most important decision you will ever make.  Please listen to the Holy Spirit as He moves upon you today.  Amen.