WHEN ARE WE TO EXHORT AND WHEN ARE WE TO ENCOURAGE AND SHOW MERCY?
Today I am writing about something I find a little difficult and I may not have all the answers. I will describe dilemmas and point to The Word.
I had some difficulties last time when I wrote that we should bless our enemies. Should we allow our enemies to hurt us? People are not primarily our enemies, but the devil and his helpers. I have had people in counselling since I wrote last time and these problems have occurred in our conversations.
Is grace and exhortation in opposition to each other? We read in the Proverbs 31:26 that the good wife opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness. In my Norwegian Bible it says that she is guiding and correcting with love. Some people asked me recently if I could receive and accept correction. I answered that I could, but it was dependent on the spirit behind it. If somebody exhorts and criticizes me having a need to exalt themselves, I do not receive it, but if it comes through The Holy Spirit, I receive it with joy. I do believe I know the difference.
When we read the letters written by apostle Paul, we read a lot about guidance and exhortation. It was sometimes directed to one particular person, different groups of people and the entire congregation. Did he write these things to make them depressed and in a bad mood? No, he did it in love in order for them to become more Christlike. Sinning does no good neither for us nor for anybody else.
We read in Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” He continues to say that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but to think soberly. This is mentioned in connection with the description of the nine gifts of The Spirit. He does not mean that we should come under condemnation or minority complex. We would not function and do the things we are called to do then. Remember that as a child of God we have received a new nature, a new DNA.
Some people are going around exhorting all the time, but that is not what Paul is saying in 2.Corinthians 13:10+11. When he comes with corrections, it is not meant for destruction. In another translation it says that they should receive both guidance and edification. In verse 11 he encourages them to be of one mind and to live in peace. If they do that, the God of love and peace would be with them. God is a holy God, but not a severe God. He is full of mercy and grace and He wants to encourage us and He wants us to encourage each other. If we would do that, there would be less jealousy in the Body of Christ. We read in 1.Corinthians 14:3 that he who prophesies should speak edification and exhortation and comfort to men. If you only come with exhortation, something is wrong. I would wonder if the prophesies are real then. Everything has to be tested.
We read in 1.Peter 4:8 that love covers a multitude of sins. Does that mean that we should pretend that they do not exist? I do not believe that, but I believe that we should forgive and show mercy. When I am in counselling, I get to know about a lot of sins. Some are quite serious. When they are honest and seriously seek for help to live a new life in Christ, I must show grace. Confessed sins should be thrown into the lake where fishing is forbidden. Jesus was not punishing the woman who was caught in adultery, but he said that she should sin no more. I believe this to be the key.
Jesus did not justify the sin, but He forgave and encouraged them to seriously repent.
In counselling I meet some people that all the time accuse somebody else for their own sins and mistakes. They do not take full responsibility for their own life and they might lack true repentance. They might confess their sins, but they keep on doing them over and over again. In cases like this, I have to point at the danger. It hurts them and it blocks their intimate relationship with God and sometimes other people. I am not compassionate if I neglect to warn them. When there is a fire, we cry out: Fire.
Others repeat their sins over and over again even if they are confessed and over with. They cannot receive and enjoy God’s forgiveness and sometimes that of people. That is not God’s way. 1.John 1:9 is saying that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is the truth and we must share that with those who keep on accusing themselves. I sometimes make a little theater and brings them in the spirit to a courtroom. In court there is an accuser, a defender and a judge. I allow the accuser to come with his accusations, but then Jesus enters the scene. He says: “Let he or she go. I have paid the price. The punishment was on Me so that she or he could be free.” That is true compassion and true grace.
WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE. LET US LIVE BY GRACE AND IN GRACE!