Exhortation & Harmony
A Study on the ministry of exhortation and the unity of God’s people.
“And all things are of God…
and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation”
2 Corinthians 5:18
What is torn can be mended.
What is separated can be blended.
That which is broken can find repair,
And joy can fill the life in despair.
To seek reconciliation with others is the revelation of a heart which has and is being reconciled to Christ.
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift”
“Behold, I make all things new”
“For they refreshed my spirit and yours.
Therefore acknowledge those who are like that”
1 Corinthians 16:18
The fellowship of the Spirit between those who live and walk in the Light of Christ is a foretaste of true heavenly things. There is a repose and a refreshment in the presence of those who share in the grace of these spontaneous experiences. Eternal streams flow through the lives of those who live in the light as He who is the Light.
To many, fellowship is a noun; a thing rather than the movement and power of His Spirit binding us in the wonder of the Unity of Christ. It is by Him and in Him that all things are summed up. Division and dis-unity are the result of divided hearts; carnal things are mingled with pure to bring lives together in something other than Christ alone. Purity is the fruit of obedience. It is by this same purity that we partake of the beauty and the glory of His communion in the common bond of His Love.
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”
1 Peter 1:22
There is a communion far beyond the words of men. There are streams of refreshment and spiritual graces which cannot be shared outside of Christ Himself. Such things are effortless and eternal in nature.
“God is faithful,
by whom you were called
into the fellowship of His Son…”
1 Corinthians 1:9
“Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away”
The lesson of the fig tree is one of great value to those who seek truth. Its message is for our growth and development.
Jesus came to the fig tree looking for figs. He came looking for fruit consistent with its capability. So it is with us. The righteousness of God prevents Him from an expectation that is beyond the ability of the tree to produce. The God who measures the talents to every child of His according to their ability, is the same God who holds each of us accountable to Him for that gift. This truth brings our accountability into perspective. It is also meant to be instructive to us as parents and ministers of God that we walk in His wisdom regarding the lives of our own children and of every believer. We are not to expect Paul to minister as Peter, nor Jude to speak as Apollos. Such expectations are the result of religious doctrines and confines. The Life of Christ within regards the individual gifts and capacities of others and looks for the corresponding fruit. When the fruit of an individual is consistent with the call and the gifts of God given, there should be a collective rejoicing unto the Giver of all good things. When the fruit of a life is missing or lacking the vitality of its call and capability, there is great need for the ministration of exhortation and admonition. Ministers who fail in this vital aspect of ministry will find themselves accountable to the Chief Shepherd of our souls.
Stewards and Shepherds
We are stewards of the grace of God and as such we are to shepherd His flock with a desire to see Him glorified in each and every child of His. It requires a pure heart to walk in such things knowing full well our own accountability unto Him. The fear of the Lord is the ground upon which His true ministers walk and function. John the Apostle declared that he had no greater joy than to “see his children walking in truth”; the truth of what has been given to them. The one who has been given prophetic insight, that is the thing to which God will hold them accountable (1-see below). The one who teaches must teach the truth of God to the end that every life will grow in the holiness and wisdom of God. (2-see below). Those who exhort must do so with purity and simplicity (3-see below) As to the Apostolic, there is to be a faithfulness to call God’s people to the obedience of faith (4-see below). The list is as endless as the diversity of God’s creation.
(1) “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith” (Romans 12:6)
(2) “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28)
(3) “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3)
(4) “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5)
In the book of Romans, Paul exhorts God’s people to receive all of these diversities as the gifts and the wisdom of God. Those who refuse these expressions deny God’s wisdom and subject themselves to His judgment. Division is the result of man’s wisdom and pride.
“Only by pride cometh contention…”
The Lesson of the fig tree is that He comes to each of us looking for corresponding fruit. His expectation is consistent with His grace given. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with one talent was judged severely for his faithlessness to the gift given (Matthew 15:30). In the Parable of the Vine, the branch which bore no fruit was “cut off” (John 15:2,6). The lesson of the Fig Tree was meant for our admonition and learning to that same end.
The response of Jesus to the two individuals who were faithful to their respective talents was the same! Different talents yet the same reward for their faithfulness to God’s measure.
“His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”
The purpose of these diverse ministrations is:
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,
being fruitful in every good work…”
“For I know with an absolute knowledge and stand persuaded in the Lord Jesus that not even one thing is unhallowed in itself except it be to the one who reasons it out to be unhallowed. To that one it is unhallowed. For, if because of food your brother is made to grieve, no longer are you conducting yourself according to love. Stop ruining by your food that one on behalf of whom Christ died. Therefore, stop allowing your good to be spoken of in a reproachful and evil manner; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the sphere of the Holy Spirit; for the one who in this serves the Christ is well pleasing to God, and because having met the specifications is approved by men”
Romans 14:10-13 (Wuest Translation)
Paul prefaced this plea to the Body of Christ with:
“Who are you who judge another’s servant? To his own lord he stands or falls. Yes, he will be made to stand, for God has power to make him stand. One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who doesn’t eat, to the Lord he doesn’t eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself“
(May the very Spirit of Christ be the arbitrator of our hearts).
My previous post (Thought for Today -Christmas) was in response to attending a school Christmas concert of one of my grandchildren. I sat there as each individual class got up to sing some silly song about Santa, reindeer or snow. I found it heart-breaking that there is a generation arising who knows and hears little of the precious Name of Jesus. After 6 or 7 classes, one got up and sang a beautiful song about my Saviour, His birth and resurrection; I found myself thanking God that there was one teacher who was making an effort to make known His Name. I discovered afterwards that she had written the song herself. To me she was a great light shining in the darkness and it made me want to be the same. It encouraged me that there was one who had a heart to make known His Name and do it in such a way that her whole class was being taught the message of His birth, death and resurrection. The ministration of the Gospel went forth in a very simple and yet profound way. She was not afraid of this contentious day; she used it for the Glory of God.
My own experience growing up was in a godless family with a violent father; at one point I was living on the streets at the age of 13. However, I remember back in one of my grade school days, while participating in a Christmas concert, I was singing a certain carol and there was such a joy that welled up in my heart! To this day I know it was God’s grace touching a very lost and lonely life.
My God is above all things; what Satan means for evil, God uses for good. While to some this day is “unhallowed”, to others it is “hallowed”; to me it is neither. I hope, just as this teacher did, only to make HIS NAME known in a world that is perishing for the lack of His Light.
Paul rejoiced whenever and wherever the name of Jesus Christ was made known.
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice”
Whether one esteems a day or not, let the LOVE of Christ show through as we are entreated in the Word of God. To me every day is the same; but regarding those who honour the day as unto the Lord and those who do not honour the day, I will not speak evil of them. This is not the spirit of compromise; it is the grace of God lending respect and honour to the faith of God in His people.
Everyone one of us will surely stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ for our words, our thoughts and our actions.
I was totally taken by surprise over the reactions and the flood of comments concerning such a trivial subject. Would to God we would be as zealous over our real issues of life! Issues such as the nature of our thought lives, our lack of charity, and our real need to overcome every vestige of sin and rebellion in our hearts; to the END that we would be immersed in the Love of God.
Be that as it may, to those who have been offended, I heartily apologize as it is not my purpose to stir up controversy or strife.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”
“Glory in the highest places to God,
and upon earth peace among men of good will”
(Wuest and the literal Greek rendering)
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
(2 Corinthians 4:6)
“For as the body is one, and hath many members,
and all the members of that one body, being many,
are one body: so also is Christ.”
I Corinthians 12:12
Truth by its very nature is simple, but the implications of its simplicity are profound and costly. Truth demands change in order for us to enjoy and walk in the power it brings. Truth is the root from which all the fruit of the Spirit is formed. Without truth all things are a counterfeit and a sham. In the presentation of the Gospel of John we see in the introduction the simple statement, “In the beginning was the Word…” This Word is not a truth written in ink on paper. This is the LIVING SON who alone IS TRUTH. It is therefore vital that in the forming of HIS life in the individual believer there be a ministration of TRUTH to make us TRUE in the core of our lives. Truth only has one purpose, one end; to make the recipient TRUE in character and expression. Truth is not knowledge, it is not opinions, and it is not a supposition. Truth is power, truth is substance and it is nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus did not say I give you a truth. He said I AM THE TRUTH! Truth is the WORD becoming flesh. To the extent that we reveal HIM in our daily lives is the revelation of the TRUTH that is in us. In the actual development of TRUTH in our hearts, we must begin to see that there is ONE BODY because “so also is Christ”! (Many members, ONE BODY.)
We look today over the landscape of what men call “Christianity” and wonder how such a unity could ever be. IF HOWEVER, we look into the POWER and LOVE of God through the eyes of faith, we must say, “How can these things NOT BE?” In 1 Corinthians 1:13 Paul asks the most profound question…
I Corinthians 1:13
IS HE? The issue is not what we see, but what we know to be truth. FAITH is the doing of that which is the TRUTH in Christ. It is not concerned with what is, for FAITH can only reveal that which is REAL in the Spirit. By faith Peter walked on water; at that moment of time he walked in truth by faith. He saw JESUS walking on the water and his FAITH translated what he saw in JESUS into what he walked on earth. That is the true nature of FAITH. Faith is not statements, teachings or ideas. Faith is substance, revealed by our walk. If I believe there is ONE BODY even as there is ONE CHRIST then my life will reveal it. IF the question Paul presents here “Is Christ divided?” is answered by a resounding NO within our hearts then it is of necessity that our lives reveal this truth! Our speech, our behaviour and our prayer life must certainly be indicative of our individual abiding in HIM. To have and walk in the LOVE OF CHRIST can only mean that we love what HE loves.
This ONE BODY can only be the product of TRUTH. For the corporate expression of the RISEN CHRIST will require HIS LIFE to arise within the life of each individual believer who would know of this oneness. The difficulty of this is measured only by the condition of our hearts. Peter asked Jesus about John, and Jesus replied “What is that to thee? Follow thou me”. Man always tries to quickly excuse our response by looking at someone else, but the truth lays within our own heart not someone else’s. This reality can only be known as truth is truth in the individual. For this unity WILL SURELY COME to pass, but only through the medium of faith will it be so with us.
Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but the efficacy of the blood can only be appropriated by faith within the heart of each life. Faith is the conduit through which the life of Christ is received and appropriated into our own being. It is in my own heart becoming united in its love and pursuit of Christ whereby I will touch the wonder of that unity in my brother and sister. Unity is the natural state of being where God reigns.
Jesus set forth in a clear and definitive way those who are His brothers and sisters…
“For whosoever shall DO the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”
It is not by some religious profession which constitutes the family of God; The true children of God are they who DO His Will and walk in His Ways. The Lordship of Christ is the basis of this unity and all they who are of the truth hear His Voice and grow into the unifying reality of the Power of His Love.
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently”
1 Peter 1:22
This unity and its unspeakable glory can only be approached by the obedient heart individually; for the purity of our hearts can only be realized by a life which obeys the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”
HE IS ABLE!
HE IS COME FOR THIS PURPOSE!
“I have never yet known the Spirit of God
to work where the Lord’s people were divided”
(Updated writing from “He is Able” Series Part Two)
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:10
The call and purpose of God in Christ Jesus is to the end that we become an expression of the life and wonder of Jesus. Our interaction with the Holy Spirit is about the “manifestation” of His Life in us. He alone is to be the fulcrum upon which our life is lived. God’s singular focus is the glorifying of the Son; as our hearts become aligned by the power of the Holy Spirit we are caught up in this grand purpose. The signature of a life lived in the grace of God will be summed up by the cry:
There is a hidden dynamic of life available within the confines of the Cross of Christ. A life of resurrection awaits those who would enter into the reality of discipleship. There is but one avenue of advance; one door, one key and one price for the surpassing glory of His Life being manifested in us: a dying to self. It is here that even the call to ministry must be refined within the consuming fire of God until its sole purpose is to manifest His life at the cost of our own. The pathway is littered with many who have started out well only to become enamoured by their own expressions of ministry and the adulation of others. How perilous is this way and how deceptive the human heart is at every juncture in our journey!
His ministration subtly becomes “our” ministry. The people we minister to become “our fellowship” and “our church”. The dregs of fallen Adam usurp the blessings of Christ. It is one thing to start out well but few there be that end well. The safeguard is to remain faithful to the truth; speak truth, live truth and identify with Him who is the truth. Relationships must be subservient to the truth. It is here that the weight and the power of the Cross is revealed. Popularity and acceptance are virulent enemies of the cross and the human heart is susceptible to both. Paul presented this vital truth in the Book of Galatians:
“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”
Paul himself made it clear that his standing with the people of God in his day was founded on him being held within the truth of God and not in the office of his apostleship. Every ministration of God which causes schisms, division and a calling of people unto themselves, “their” church or fellowship, is an affront to the person and the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Only those who are living daily unto this ONE end will know of the wonder, the power and the excellency of the glory of the Resurrected Christ!
“He MUST increase,
and I must decrease”
“If we love one another, God dwelleth in us,
and his love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:12
Love is the bond, the ligaments as it were, of the Body of Christ. Love is never content with shallow religious affiliations. It seeks out, pursues and ever desires full knowledge of another. Within its own heart is the flame of relationship and union in Christ. Its reach into another heart is for the purpose of apprehending oneness; the same oneness for which Christ prayed unto the Father. This union of hearts is the very essence and heartbeat of His Spirit within His own. It is a cry which can only be fulfilled in the purity and wonder of His Holiness becoming in truth our holiness. Many fear such depths of fellowship for in the intimacy of holy bonds there is no room for the hypocrisy and pretense of an insincere heart. Holiness in Christ is the fearful abode in which only the authentic can live and be at home. The depth of our abiding in Him corresponds with the depth of our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The measure of our own partaking of His resurrection life is revealed in the love we have for our brothers and sisters. Only the deceived can find rest in a life lived outside of the love of God.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren.”
1 John 3:14
There are many in this day who find refuge in obscurity where the true inner condition remains hidden from the view of others. It is a refuge of darkness and in this hiding place men and women live a life of duplicity and bondage. The light of God does not penetrate the self-made cloak of iniquity to bring healing, freedom and life. This dark place becomes a habitation of judgment and unreality. Those who choose such a place will never know the freedom and glory that the ministration of truth brings to the soul of man.
The natural outflow of a healthy heart seeks depths of relationship with others. It is free from the need to hide and conceal the true, secret life within. Indifference to the true condition of the lives of those around us is the fruit of a life lived within the obscurity of its own making. The Love of God differs greatly from the love of self. The Love of God seeks purity within for only the “pure in heart” can see God. The blazing light of God shining within the human heart exposes the falseness and perversity of our very being; it pierces the deception of our own selfishness.
The relationship which God has called us to is one of union and oneness, not worldly and distant.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ,
and every one members one of another.”
The relationship that Jesus has called us to is not a casual one. The depth of relationship we are called to is of the same nature and power as “He is with the Father”. There will be no real change in the paradigm of the Body of Christ until the desire for true relationship is the cry of our hearts. The unity of the faith will never be realized outside of our being ONE in Him. A shallow relationship with HIM will be evident in our relationship with our brothers and sisters. To be ONE with Him is to desire and pursue the same depth of relationship with the other members of His Body.
“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light,
and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”
1 John 2:10
“Holy Father, keep through thine own name
those whom thou hast given me,
that they may be one, as we are”