Three Observations about Exhortation | Heath Lambert

Even when exhortation is not fun, it serves an essential function in the plan of our gracious God to keep us in the faith.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

In Hebrews 4 God has been talking about the Israelites in the Exodus and how they hardened their hearts during the wilderness wanderings thus provoking the wrath of God.  The author of Hebrews urges Christians to avoid this provocation.  He wants them to take care to avoid an evil, unbelieving heart that would lead them to fall away from the living God.

It is in this context that he raises the issue of exhortation.  Exhortation is of crucial importance for the message of the text because it is the means by which people will avoid an evil unbelieving heart and so remain in the grace of the living God.  Exhortation is a vital means of grace.  It is a crucial tool in the hand of God to keep his people in the faith.

This is of particular interest because of what exhortation is.  The word comes from the Greek parakaleo and has a broad field of meaning.  In general terms it means “to urge” and often includes the idea of giving comfort.  Often, however, the urging of exhortation is equated with a rebuke: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2);Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority.  Let no one disregard you (Titus 2:15).

An Essential Means of Grace

This means that sometimes exhorting is unpleasant.  It doesn’t always need to be so, but in a world marred by sin where you are not yet what you will be, it is often important to urge you to do, be, say, and believe things that are unpleasant to you in your flesh.  The necessity of a rebuke will only come as a shock to arrogant people who think they don’t need any correction—and they are the ones who need to be exhorted the most.

Even when exhortation is not fun, it serves an essential function in the plan of our gracious God to keep us in the faith.  That is the first observation about exhortation: Exhortation is an essential and God-ordained means of grace.  Let me make two more.

A Two-way Street

Hebrews 3:13, “Exhort one another every day” is written to me so I’ll know how to treat you.  If I am not exhorting you I’m not treating you the way God wants me to be treating you, and I am not doing my part in God’s plan to keep you in the faith.  There is another side to that coin, however.  Hebrews 3:13 is also written to you so that you will know how to treat me.  If you are not exhorting me, you’re not treating me as God desires and not serving your loving function of keeping me in the faith.  Hebrews, as it is written to all believers, teaches me to anticipate rebuke.  It teaches me to avoid thinking something terrible is happening to me when you play your part in the great work of keeping me in the faith.  Hebrews exhorts me to love rebuke.  It invites me to see your pointing out of my failures and imperfections as a loving way to keep me walking close to Jesus.  I love praise as much as the next guy.  I learn from Hebrews, however, that is often more useful for me to be exhorted.

An Expression of Christ-like Love

Finally, Hebrews gives us a motivation for our exhortation when we are called to give them.  The whole point of this is that we would not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  When I exhort you it’s because I love you and know from the bottom of my heart that your sin is a threat to your walk with Jesus.  I should never exhort you because I’m angry with you, because I want to prove I’m right and your wrong, because I want to demonstrate that I’m more spiritual than you, or for any other self-centered and fleshy reason.  Exhortation springs from a heart that loves people and wants to see them thrive in their walk with God.

So go exhort someone!  Exhort in love because you want people to be close to Jesus.  And exhort others as one who needs to be exhorted yourself.

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Heath Lambert serves as assistant professor of biblical counseling as well as the department coordinator of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College. In addition Dr. Lambert serves as Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has authored several books including Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan), The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway), and the editor (with Stuart Scott) of Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (B&H). You can connect with Dr. Lambert on Twitter and FacebookThis article was originally published on the ACBC blog. (Used with permission)

‘First Things’ as faithful witness: applying Paul’s ministry manifesto today | R. Albert Mohler Jr.

I think most of us with any sense of awareness can recognize that we are living in one of those great transitional moments in human history. But there is one thing that must not change: the Christian task of bearing faithful witness to the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some would disagree and argue that the Christian witness, to be faithful, must change anything and everything to fit the culture as it changes over time and across locations. They might quote the apostle Paul: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). I propose, however, that far from a mandate to accommodate all things, Paul’s words here are a manifesto for ministry that puts the gospel above all things.

Where we are in history

We have reached the culmination of an historical progress that has become a pattern in which we must anticipate radical change for the rest of our lives. One of the signs we need to recognize is that we are coming to terms with the collapse of “cultural Christianity” in America. This is something that we knew had to happen, but it did not seem to be happening very fast. But the mechanisms that have delayed secularization here, which has already moved so rapidly throughout Europe, have now largely failed and cultural Christianity is disappearing before our eyes in two directions at once: geographically and generationally. The closer you get to a metropolitan area and the younger you go in the population, the less likely you are to find any form of cultural Christianity.

While cultural Christianity is disappearing, religious unbelief and those who claim no religious affiliation are on the rise. Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, tells us that we have passed through three intellectual epochs. Before the Enlightenment, it was impossible not to believe. After the Enlightenment, it became possible not to believe. But now, for many, the worldview they inhabit makes it impossible for them to believe; they are now so secular that they do not even know they are secular. And along with unbelief, those with no religious affiliation are increasing. “Nones,” as they are known, now account for one out of every five Americans, the Pew Research Center estimates. Under the age of 30, that number jumps to one in three.

Along this trajectory of collapsing cultural Christianity and the rise of radical secularization, the greatest moral revolution this world has known is now spinning almost entirely without constraint. By any kind of historical evaluation, the moral revolution we are now experiencing is without precedent in terms of its scale and velocity. This revolution is overturning millennia of agreement in almost all cultures regarding human gender and sexuality, marriage and the family — and it is taking place within a single generation. I would argue that no moral revolution on this scale has ever been experienced by a society that remained intact.

What we are facing

How in the world are we going to go about the Christian task of bearing gospel witness in the midst of a moral revolution that defies exaggeration? And here I mean “in the world” in both senses: as an expression of musing and as the location of ministry. In times of trouble, silence is not an option. We are called to speak the truth here and now.

To see what kind of theological and missiological thinking is required of us to speak the truth here and now, we must look to the apostles’ example and instruction God gives us in the Scriptures. Doing so, we find sure footing to stand and speak within an unprecedented moral revolution by first listening carefully to Paul’s gospel ministry manifesto:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. … I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Cor 9:19-23).

In short, then, our challenge is to become all things to all people, that by all means and for the sake of the gospel we might save some who hear good news in a revolution that is rebelling against even basic human flourishing.

How ‘in the world’ Christians witness

Reading Paul’s gospel ministry manifesto in isolation could easily lead to a mandate for universal accommodation. Everything would be on the table, from theology to morality to church and family structures. But the problem for such a radical accommodationism is that Paul must be understood in the context of his other writings and the rest of God’s inspired and inerrant Word.

Reading with this presupposition, Paul’s gospel ministry manifesto teaches us how to speak the truth in our own time of trouble in these last days.

We must give up real freedoms that risk the gospel. The church has a severe credibility crisis because the world does not think we mean what we say. We may proclaim the gospel, but it is often difficult to hear and believe when we more highly praise and prize our freedoms in the gospel. Paul, however, always puts the gospel first. Although he has legitimate rights and freedoms as an apostle and in Christ, Paul will not allow any of them to deny him the opportunity to bring the blessings of the gospel to those in need. This is how we become genuine servants of others, when their need for the gospel becomes more important than our freedom in the gospel.

We must serve others under the law of Christ. Many would say that we need to grow up and face the fact that we live in a modern world that rejects supernatural and universal truth claims as oppressive and contrary to reason. The Christians among them would say that serving others by becoming all things to all people requires an unlimited flexibility, even in theology and morality. But while Paul says he is outside the law, he does not mean that he is an outlaw. He says, in effect, “I am outside the law of Moses, but I am under the law of Christ.” This is a very important qualification; Paul again puts the gospel first. No time and no situation can require or permit a sub-gospel witness because Jesus, who is the gospel, has with all authority commissioned his church to make disciples of every nation, teaching them to obey all that he has commanded — which certainly includes matters of doctrine and morality.

We must witness without over- or under-accommodating. Paul is no pragmatic accommodationist. On matters of theology and morality in particular, Paul is strikingly inflexible. He is constantly and consistently concerned with the endurance of sound doctrine in the churches. He tells Timothy to guard the church against those who come in as ravenous wolves, those who are saying, “We need theological reformulation.” And Paul was no less tolerant of the sexualization spreading throughout the culture of his day. When he hears that the Corinthians are doing things that are detestable even to the pagans in the area, he warns them that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So, if we are not supposed to accommodate doctrine and we are not supposed to relativize morality, then what are we supposed to do? First, we must recognize that the Scriptures give us clear teachings that are of first importance, and these cannot be accommodated. But we also need to see that everything else can be accommodated.

The Christian task can be summarized this way: Christians must bear faithful witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ by holding onto everything the Bible clearly says to hold on to and letting go of all things that would undermine those “first things.”

In the midst of an unprecedented moral revolution, the task of Christian witness will not be easy. It will require our keenest thinking and the most faithful theological and biblical understanding to preach no other gospel than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we become all things to all people to share with them in the blessings of the gospel. We will, therefore, trust in God’s grace to ground his church in the truth such that we will know what “all” means, all the time.

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R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Mohler on TwitterFacebook and on AlbertMohler.com

10 Ways to Exercise Christlike Headship | Owen Strachan

Few words are more invested with meaning than the term “headship.” It’s a Christological and theological term that is grounded in Ephesians 5:23, which reads “For the husband is the head [Greek kephale] of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” This is the preeminent statement in all of Scripture on what a husband is and is to be.

This means that the husband, in John Piper’s seminal words, is the one who takes “primary responsibility for Christlike servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home” (Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, 84). There is so much to unpack here, and it can be confusing for modern men to understand, especially since a secularizing culture dislikes, even detests, the concept. Because that is the case, let me suggest ten ways by which godly husbands can practice Christlike headship in their home.

10. Christlike male headship means that you see the spiritual nourishment of your wife as your primary duty (Eph. 5:28-30). This doesn’t happen by accident; it happens as, on a regular basis, you open the Bible with her, pray with her, and talk about God with her. You don’t need to be a global theologian to read the Bible and pray the Bible, right?

9. Christlike male headship means that you love just one wife. Like Jesus, who loved only his bride, you have eyes for no one else. You save up your affection for her. You live on a continual mission to treasure her and to make her feel treasured.

8. Christlike male headship means that you train yourself to know the Lord in a vibrant way. You recognize that your family will only flourish under your leadership when you are flourishing in Christ. This means being in the Word regularly and praying regularly and being a faithful church member. You don’t have to be a spiritual all-star, future biographers poring over your Moleskins for clues into your thinking. You do need to be faithful to your Savior by the Spirit’s awesome power (Romans 6, 8).

7. Christlike male headship means on date night/vacations, you think first, “What would she like to do?” not, “What would I like to do?” If you’re on vacation or a date, you’re first trying to find activities she would enjoy. With apologies to 1990s-era bracelets, I try to ask myself, WWBL—what would Bethany like? For you, this may mean that you forgo a war museum, a basketball or baseball game, or a superhero movie. Then, not only do you find something she would like to do, but you enter into it fully. You’re present with her. She will love you for it.

6. Christlike male headship means that at dinner, after a long day at work, you hold the baby so your wife, frazzled from kids and home, can eat first. Your food is getting cold; your stomach is growling. You are hungry, and mannishly so. But you hold your child so that the woman who sacrificially gives 100% of her energy each day to care for your children can, at the very least, eat a hot meal. You can’t make childraising easy; it’s always challenging. You can, however, make it more pleasurable.

5. Christlike male headship means, when conflict happens (as it will), you lead in apologizing. First, before you speak, you listen well, inviting your wife to share what hurt her. You don’t interrupt her or fight her off. As you think about what you’ve done, you confess your sin to her. You don’t offer excuses; you display humility by owning your faults like a man. You lead in showing humility; you don’t expect her to show it first.

4. Christlike male headship means that you show strength wherever you can. You’re not a sphinx; you’re not a superman. You can and should show genuine emotion, and you should make clear to your son(s) that men get sad, men get angry at evil, men are tender and gentle with women. But like David charged Solomon, you’re engaged in a lifelong process of “showing yourself a man” and thus being strong for others (1 Kings 2:2). When hardship hits, headship persists.

3. Christlike male headship means that you put yourself in harm’s way, gladly taking a hit to protect your family (and the weak). Christ “gave himself up” for the church (Eph. 5:25). You do the same for loved ones and, by extension, those in your neighborhood without protection. You do so willingly, without fear, knowing that this is your divine call as a man. You may not be a fearsome linebacker; your shoulders may not ripple with muscle. But as a God-ordained head, whether 6’6” or 4’10” you put yourself in the line of fire, and you take others out of it.

2. Christlike male headship means that like the best leaders—generals, presidents, coaches, and so on—you solicit gobs of wisdom from wise counselors (namely, your wife).You generously and gladly solicit your wife’s wisdom. If your relationship is like mine, she will put you to shame in this category. She will have good idea after good idea. None of this threatens you or upsets you. The strongest men are not those who never listen. The strongest men are those who are so confident in Christ that they crave wisdom, celebrate humility, and are glad, not threatened, when others contribute.

1. In these and 1,000 other ways, Christlike male headship means you die to yourself daily. This is your constant thought throughout the day: how can I be like Jesus and die to myself for the good of my wife and my family? He “gave himself up” for others. In the power of his cross and resurrection, I am going to do the same, come what may.


Conclusion


You may never have witnessed this kind of leadership. It might only be theoretical. Men in your past might have abused their authority and strength, and doubly damned themselves by justifying their abuses as part of manhood and leadership. If this is your experience, I invite you to consider the cross, which makes all things new. Christian leadership doesn’t mean everyone bowing down to you because you’re so great. It means, like Jesus, that you become a courageous servant, dying to yourself for the benefit of others. If you have heard differently, wipe the slate clean. The Bible’s word is better than any other. Read Ephesians 5 again, and soak it in.

Our culture may reject male headship; it may undermine men. None of that matters to you. None of it bogs you down. Whether trained by a godly dad from birth or newly learning about headship as a young believer, your face is set like a flint to pursue the glory of God as the Christlike head of a home. That’s your goal; that, like a distant trumpet summoning you to sacrificial leadership, is your call.

 

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This article was originally posted on the blog of the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You can read the original article here.

Owen Strachan is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College.  He is also President of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  You can find more content from Dr. Strachan on CBMW.org or follow him on Twitter at @OStrachan

The Evolution of Religion | Dan DeWitt

It’s likely you’ve heard some version of the following statement in recent history, “Religion is a result of evolution.” I understand why skeptics would make this claim, and why they would feel a corresponding need to provide a natural explanation for the universal reality that humans are religious beings. But what might this imply?

I thought about this recently in an exchange with a skeptic friend and I thought, for the sake of mental exercise, that I would concede that this proposition is true. So let’s concede that religion is a product of evolution. What might that prove? It seems it would have at least two implications that appear, at least to me, to be inescapable:

A.) If religion is a product of evolution, then religion is false (that much seems rather obvious).

B.) If religion is a product of evolution, then evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth (this seems unavoidable).

If the vast majority of humans, in both the past and present, have evolved to hold false beliefs (ie. religion) then it is clear that evolution isn’t a reliable process for attaining truth. It may be concerned with adaptability and survival, but it seems impossible to claim both that it led to such widespread false views of reality, such as universal religious beliefs, and at the same time produced the reliable mental equipment necessary to otherwise give us confidence that we know truth. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.

Perhaps I’ve not thought about this enough, but it seems to me, at this stage of my thinking, that there is a third implication that follows:

C.) If religion is a product of evolution, then evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth, then we don’t have good reason to say with confidence that it is true that religion is a product of evolution because evolution isn’t concerned with leading us to truth.

Maybe I’m overstepping the third point, but I’m finding it difficult to see how you can accept A without accepting B, and if B follows, then C seems to be the roundabout that calls into question our ability to confidently assert A.

But, on the other hand, perhaps there is another way of looking at this. Maybe the universal religious longing of humanity is pointing to something real. What if we have good reason to trust our mental faculties, in that our brains are designed and directed at truth? And what if, just thinking out loud here, our universal yearning for the divine is more than an illusion passed down for some survival benefit?

What if our mental faculties our directed at truth, and what if this gaping hole that men and women seek to fill with religion is a sign that we were created to know our Creator?

 

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This article was originally posted on Dan DeWitt’s blog, Theolatte. You can view the original post here.

Dan DeWitt is the dean of Boyce College. You can find more content from Dr. DeWitt on his blog at Theolatte.com or follow him on twitter at @DanDeWitt