Exhortation & Harmony
A Study on the ministry of exhortation and the unity of God’s people.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare…”
Discernment by its very nature demands objectivity. The effect of the workings of the cross in one’s walk will determine the measure of our discernment. Objectivity is the fruit of our dying to self. Wherever agendas, self-promotion and personal advantage are present, clear vision becomes impaired. Discernment is a very costly commodity within the heart of a believer. To see aright a heart must be right in the “fear of the Lord”. To fear God is to be free from the fear of man.
When there is fear and undue concern regarding the opinion of another the ability to see clearly is compromised. Fear of a single individual or submission to group-think causes people to remain in a clique, sect or cult. These are critical days. It is of vital importance that men and women become free to live and walk in the fear of the Lord. The true ministry of God will always lead His Own to fear God and walk accordingly.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ”
A desire to garner the acceptance of others, speaking the right things to maintain a relationship, or a semblance of conformity to the dictates of a group, are the shackles of religion. The power of truth brings freedom; a freedom to live, speak and walk in the liberty of His Spirit to please and honour Him alone. It is from this freedom that men and women are liberated to assess and evaluate the subtler issues of life. This is the only means by which the true unity of the Spirit can be known; each member discerning all things by their own witness through the Living Christ in whom they abide.
Religion ever exerts a pressure to conform to the directives of men; truth is the means by which we are transformed.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”
It is in the transforming work of God whereby His Own are freed from the blinding influences of sects and ingrown heresies. Discernment is a gift and developed by the power of the cross. Many in this hour will freely use the Name of Jesus to hold sway over the lives of others; some may even perform outward signs and wonders in His Name (Matthew 7:21-23). They may appear spiritual but, in the end, they serve themselves and their own ambitions. They create divisions in order to have the pre-eminence. They distinguish themselves and their followers from others through the subtly of influence and fear. God’s promise to those who allow the washing and the fire of the Word of God is the divine ability to discern between those who serve God and those who serve themselves.
“Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not”
Malachi 3:18 (read the context)
Those who serve God ever seek to minister unto others the pursuit of the “unity of the Spirit” through the development of each individual’s own walk in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”
We are told in the Parable of the Sower that “the seed is the word of God”. Those who sow such precious seed must do so in the same Spirit in which that Word was given. Many may speak the scriptures, but few sow the “Word of God”. When the word is sown by the Spirit of God it teems with His life and power. There is an impartation into the lives of those who hear with ears of faith; the fire of Life burns, the heart of man is quickened, and Jesus is glorified.
“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes”
In order for the ministers of God to speak with authority, their lives must be subject to the authority of the Word. Authority comes from submission. Otherwise, if men share His Word but their life is not subject to His Word, that authority of Jesus will be lacking. Even the Roman Centurion knew and understood this.
“For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it”
The true authority in the Spirit comes to those who are under His authority. His Word has precedence in their lives. It takes very little discernment to know those who serve God and those who do not. There is a fire and the fragrance of Christ’s lordship in the hearts of those who are subject to His will. This touching of His life in one another is called fellowship. The fellowship of the Spirit is not the result of adherence to a teaching, but of Light; His Light resident within His own.
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another”
1 John 1:7
The fellowship of the Spirit is not a function of teaching but of Light, His Light resident in His own.
Submission to the Word
is revealed in our obedience to it
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
In physics, a law describes the behavior and the observable function of a particular phenomenon.
“Laws are descriptions — often mathematical descriptions — of natural phenomenon; for example, Newton’s Law of Gravity or Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment. These laws simply describe the observation. Not how or why they work” Coppinger
Newton’s Law of Gravity describes the behavior of gravity. Gravity does not exist because of the law; the law simply describes the inherent operation of gravity. So it is in the Law of the Spirit. The Law of Righteousness is a Law which describes how a righteous life lives. It cannot make one righteous it is simply given to describe the behaviour of a righteous life.
“For the law made nothing perfect”
It is not in our trying to keep the Law that we are spiritual. It is because we are becoming spiritual that the Law of Life (His Life) is fulfilled. Whenever we break the Law it is because we are lacking the LIFE OF THE ONE who alone can keep it. Paul, referring to the Law as given by Moses, declared the following truth:
” For we know that the law is spiritual…”
The issue is that we are carnal; it is an absurdity to attempt to keep a spiritual law when by nature we are not. The only hope for any individual is by virtue of the Spirit of Christ invading our lives. By His power we receive a new nature, a spiritual nature which naturally fulfills the Law of God. Only a spiritual nature can fulfill a spiritual law.
“For we know that the law is spiritual:
but I am carnal, sold under sin…”
Here is the great contradiction in the life of every individual. The natural man cannot fulfill a spiritual law. There is no amount of striving, no matter how earnest the effort, that will ever enable one nature to fulfill the law of another. In the Law of Gravity, if an object has mass, it is subject to its inherent law of attraction. In spiritual things where there is a residue of the natural man, he will find himself subject to the Law of Sin and Death. It cannot be otherwise. What is this Law of Sin and Death?
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do”
There is only ONE WAY to be free from the Law of Sin and Death; it is in our discovery of the power of Christ to liberate us from walking in the flesh! This freedom requires a new nature. This nature must be freed from the pull and the horror of the Law of Sin, a law which holds all things carnal in its deadly grip. The freedom of the Law of Life is the provision of God. It is in our abiding in Him that we are freed from the chains of sin.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”
The simplicity of the provision of God is clear. The agonizing struggle for all who are seeking freedom from this Law of Sin and Death is described clearly in Romans 7.
“For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. I find then the law, when I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Paul called this agonizing dilemma a war. It is a war to those desiring to fulfill the Law of God but who constantly find the Law of Sin holding dominion over their actions. The truth is our attempts to fight this war with our carnal nature is like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket; as futile as it is absurd. To try to overcome the flesh by the power of flesh is like a man jumping up from the earth in order to over-come the Law of Gravity. That momentary state of freedom is quickly erased by his inevitable return to the ground. Let this truth stand as God’s verdict upon the carnal mind (the natural man) and especially to those who ascribe to the futility of religion.
“…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The Law of God decrees (as evidenced in all creation) that the carnal man is subject to the Law of Carnality. Its nature determines its behavior. Those who live in the Spirit of God live their life according to the nature of His Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-25).
“Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
The logic of God is clear; the fruit of a thing reveals the nature of it. A thistle cannot bear figs. James states that fresh water and saltwater cannot flow from the same fountain. It is here that religion attempts to circumvent the simplicity and truth of God’s Law of Being. What individuals do reveal the nature by which they live. In Matthew 7 Jesus is describing to His disciples the basic law of true spiritual discernment: “you will know them by their fruits”. In the sphere of religion, the clarity of God’s truth becomes murky (by men’s design) when the validity of a person’s standing in God is judged on confession rather than behavior! This deception of Satan infiltrates and spawns its deadly contagion among those who are not discerning.
In Galatians Paul sets forth the “works” of the flesh.
“Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”
Wherever these traits are expressed it is the result of living and walking out of the nature of the carnal man. Let no one deceive you in this. Confession, good works, prophecy, speaking in tongues, prayer, teachings, fastings, and a thousand other things cannot circumvent the truth. Those who DO these things are under the dominion of a life subject to the carnal mind. What men do reveal the nature in which they walk!
The Law of God frees us from our religious deception. This Law is fixed, and its declaration is eternal. We are to judge ourselves by its ministration that we may know the validity of our walk before Him. If I have lust in my heart, I know my need for His Life. If I become bitter, it is because I am living in the flesh. There is no excuse for bitterness because the Spirit of God frees me from its stain and sorrow. If I hate my brother, I most definitely know such a thing is not of God. If I continue in its dark influence, I disqualify myself from God’s Kingdom. If I hold envy or jealousy, I clearly reveal the nature of my walk. To envy another is to be angry with God for what He has graciously given me. The list is endless! The value of the Law is that it reveals to me my desperate need of His Life to free me from the works and the dominion of Sin and the Flesh.
“But we know that the law is good,
if a man use it lawfully”
1 Timothy 1:8
Again, Paul states in Romans 7 that the Law is good and it is to be used to this end.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet”
Can we not see the Law is a ministration for good? By its ministration the nature of Sin is revealed, and I can see the necessity of my need to live and abide in Christ! How deceptive is a gospel that teaches us to abolish the law by the declaration of a doctrine that we are forgiven and absolved of our wrong doings; as if we are no longer to measure our life by the Law of God! Many have embraced a gospel which frees them to live out their carnal nature with no concerns about their standing in God! This is the LIE which was first spoken by the Serpent in the Garden. God told Adam and Eve, “if you eat of this tree you will die”. The Serpent told Eve go ahead and eat of the tree for “you shall not die”. What was the end of the evil deed of Adam and Eve? What is the end of a life which walks in the “works of the flesh”?
“…of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”
Why such a harsh decree? Did not God pay the penalty for Sin; not only ours but the sins of the whole world? The decree of God is not against the acts listed in Galatians 5:19-22; God’s judgment is upon the Nature from which those evil expressions spring. The Kingdom of God is spiritual and those who would enter its dominion must do so on the grounds of the Law of Life in Christ Jesus. To what end?
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us
who walk not after (according to) the flesh
but after (according to) the Spirit”
(Read the whole context of this scripture)
The Law is good, and it is for our instruction. Let us not be deceived into believing that a religious confession trumps a carnal life. The conviction of God is the path to discovering the Law of Life which alone can free us from our sins. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
“For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace”
Grace is not an excuse to ignore our sinful ways. The validity of Grace is revealed in my personal freedom from sin’s power. The gospel of today states we are freed from the law therefore we need not concern ourselves with the Law’s decree. Let us read the above scripture again through the eyes of faith – “Sin shall NOT have dominion over you”. Why? Because if you walk “under (the influence of) grace”, its power will set us free. Paul goes on to contend with those who would use the “teaching” of grace to excuse sin…
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid”
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ,
we ourselves also are found sinners,
is therefore Christ the minister of sin?
Those who teach a grace which makes provision for sin have no understanding of the purposes of God in Christ. To hold to a doctrine of justification and still hold to sin is the false gospel of today. Christ is not the minister of sin nor are those who have been justified in Him doomed to a life of sin and powerlessness. Let the Word of God deal with the false teachings of our day. Let His truth penetrate our hearts with His promises and power!
The purpose of living truth is to bring each of us into the holy freedom of God; it is not to find loopholes in the Law. It is to bring us to such a place that we are no longer subject to its decrees because we are living in such a way that we do not violate its righteousness. If I drive at or under the speed limit, I am not subject to the speed limit sign and therefore the penalty of the law holds no terror for me. The falsity of a gospel which states that I can sin, and since I have confessed Christ the wages of sin no longer apply to me, is appalling and deceptive. One who subjects himself to pornography knows within the defiling wages of sin. The one who holds hatred in his heart knows by experience the truth of the wages of sin. Peace is not found in the way of the sinner. Communion with God is not possible in the life of one who lives out of the carnal nature.
“So then they that are in the flesh
cannot please God”
The above scripture is not a teaching; it is the statement of God. It is God’s verdict upon humanity. Praise be to God there is an answer to such a decree!
“Marvel not that I said unto thee,
Ye must be born again”
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”
The necessity of being “born anew” is the beginning of our deliverance. Our growth in the life of salvation is revealed in the ever- diminishing dominion of sin in our lives. In our growth in grace we find the power of His Salvation manifest in our lives by the demonstration of the fruit of His Spirit! This is the evidence of our deliverance from the works of the flesh and our “translation” from the kingdom of darkness into the glorious Kingdom of Light. The Apostle John, in his later epistles, wrote as a warning to all:
“Little children, let no man deceive you:
he that doeth righteousness is righteous…”
1 John 3:7
A faith that does not carry the life, the power and the works of God is a dead faith. A faith which is in word only has no value in the working out of God’s salvation.
“They profess that they know God;
but in works they deny him…”
The nature of Christ within must be accompanied by a revelation of Him without.
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed
from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall LIVE by faith”
To be a living Faith, it must grow from one degree unto another degree of faith (faith unto the faith). It is to produce greater expressions of God’s righteousness! “The just shall (truly) live by faith”. Jesus declared “I AM come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. Notice the tense here; not “I will come” but that “I AM come”. It is the folly of religion to point to a day in the future when in reality HE IS COME! There are greater things to come and will be for all eternity. But faith is for me to know and grow within the wonder of His “present truth”.
“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesseth that
Jesus Christ IS come in the flesh is of God”
1 John 4:2
The confession of a dead faith will talk about future things while denying the power of Christ which IS COME, present tense. That is the spirit of the anti-Christ (1 John 4:3). Those who do not take responsibility for walking righteously now, soothe their conscience with a future idea, absolving themselves from a present-day walk. It is a subtle lie of the devil himself and those who live in this “faith” sow to themselves great sorrow on an eternal scale. It is a sign of the Day in which we are living that there are many who subscribe to the lie of this faith.
Paul continues his discourse in the Book of Romans by following up Romans 1:17 with:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold the truth in unrighteousness…”
What is the wrath of God to be revealed against? “All unrighteousness” even upon those who “hold the truth” for they hold it in “unrighteousness”. Any faith which is not causing men and women to grow in their ability to live righteously is the result of holding the truth of God in unrighteousness. Let all who have ears to hear; faith without the works of God is dead! The Greek word used for “works” in this scripture is best defined by the English word “energy”. Faith which does not produce the “energy” of God within the life of an individual, unto the demonstration of its author, is dead and carries no eternal value.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also”
Let us hear the truth of what James is declaring by the Holy Spirit. A body without the spirit is but a carcass; so are those whose faith is without works. May we all reconsider the degree and the power of His Life within us today! God is calling, ever beckoning us to “come unto Him” that we may have (present tense) the wonder of His life within our hearts.
“If any man thirst,
let him come unto me, and drink”
To what end?
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said,
out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”
Christ HAS COME but more importantly, HE IS COME! Even greater, HE IS COMING!
“Who delivered us from so great a death,
and doth deliver:
in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us”
2 Corinthians 1:10
Delivered (past tense)
Doth deliver (present tense)
Will yet deliver (future tense)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I NOW live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me”
Lastly, Paul in the Book of Galatians states that the life he “NOW” lived, he lived by the faith of the Son of God. May we take note of the life he lived and its power it had on the world about him! It is time for us to begin to consider what we allow as acceptable. May the power of God’s word move us afresh to pursue in Him greater vistas of grace and glory in our salvation. May His Word move within our hearts to produce a new apprehension of what HE has called us to and for us to begin to see the full provisions which are ours in Christ Jesus!
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end”
“But he who is spiritual discerns all things,
and he himself is judged by no one.”
1 Corinthians 2:15
Discernment has nothing to do with intellectual prowess. True discernment is the aggregate result of an individual’s walk and life in Christ. Many today have confidence in their spiritual condition due to the overflow of teachings readily available to all. Any teaching that does not bring a corresponding measure of the “fear of the Lord” is bereft of truth. The foundation of a discerning life is built upon the fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 2:3-13)
Discernment requires a walk and an abiding in Him; the things of God will always culminate in the character of Christ. The very essence of truth is Christ who is the Truth. Whenever an expression is in conflict with His nature or character, it will be exposed.
Discernment is a consequence
of our abiding in Him.
Discernment is a faculty developed over time (see note below). It is the natural function of a life which has grown in its relationship with Christ Himself. This sounds trite, but it is a knowing which is the fruit of relationship; not an accumulation of knowledge about Him on an intellectual level. A carnal familiarity with God produces pride, self-assurance and an inflated view of self, whereas a true knowledge of God fills the heart with the wonder of Christ Himself. It is from this place of vital, intimate relationship that all things are compared with Him who is true.
“Which things we also speak,
not in words taught in human wisdom,
but in Words taught of the Holy Spirit,
comparing spiritual things with spiritual things”
1 Corinthians 2:14
Words, apart from the power and unction of the Holy Spirit, will leave people incapable of true discernment. Knowledge is a deceptive thing because it gives the perception that having a familiarity with the things of God alone is a safeguard. Words taught by the Holy Spirit produce a life of obedience which alone brings us into relationship with the living Christ. Obedience is the way into a life of friendship and relationship with God.
“You are my friends,
if you do whatsoever I command you”
A disobedient life will never have the true faculty of discernment because it is does not have an experiential identification with Christ. Friendship with God is revealed in an obedient life. Obedience is the fruit of a life that loves God more than itself. True discernment cannot be disassociated from obedience and the fear of the Lord.
Note: Discernment of a diligent believer is developed over time by its constant use from which a growing sensitivity to Him and His ways is fostered:
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age,
even those who by reason of use
have their senses exercised to discern
both good and evil”