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The value of being exhorted

Exhorting copy The reception went well after preaching and teaching in the AM and PM church services in Minneapolis of one of our supporting churches. Jan and I had been married ten years and completed our first 4-year term as missionaries in Colombia. A man from the church came to my side, put his arm around my shoulder and spoke in my ear, “Don, I perceive that you and your wife are struggling. Would you allow me to help you in your marriage?”

I turned to him seeing the sincerity in his eyes and said, “Yes, we would.” That encounter began a process that changed our marriage and opened to us an even broader ministry with other struggling couples.

How common should this experience be in our churches? With the more than 50 “one-another” commands in the NT, this should be a common experience among believers.

What I discovered in Minneapolis changed our marriage and my ministry. The Bible was no longer just a doctrinally true, infallible, accurate, inspired Book that I never doubted, but now it became a fascinating, practical, beneficial guide Book that works in everyday life. Just by taking seriously the instructions given for relationships and putting them into practice in our marriage, our relationship became more like we wanted.

Of course we are not perfect, but now we have principles that work and guidelines to restore harmony when selfishness, pride and foolishness disrupts our bond to each other. Without God’s instructions ours might have been another marriage disaster. Living by intuition, feelings, and man’s philosophies usually ends in misery.

The self-confidence of a naive fool

No one is perfect, nor has all the answers, … well, except the fool: “The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15). How do you know whether you are dealing with a fool or not? Watch how he responds to correction, “A fool despises his father’s instruction.” (15:5).

Unless someone intervenes, many people’s lives can self-destruct. “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.” (Prov 19:3) Sadly, wisdom is wasted in the ears of a fool: “Do not speak in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.” (23:9). He neither seeks it nor wants it.

“The one who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but the one who walks in wisdom will escape.” (NET Prov 28:26). The fool does not believe God has any helpful wisdom for his problems or his life. He is convinced he knows what is best for him.

Key to success and satisfaction

Since God created us, and cares enough to tell us how best to live and relate to one another, it makes sense to know all He has told us in His Word. Do we believe God’s way will bring happiness and fulfillment, or do we think “my way is best for me”? If we chose God’s way, then we have a lot to learn from God’s Word.

Paul challenged us to a life-long learning process: “For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph 5:17 NET). If we believe His commands will enrich our lives by thinking as He does, then we’ll help each other know them and practice them in life’s situations. (Learn one command a day at www.walkingHisWay.com) If we doubt the value of His commands, we won’t waste the time to search for them. We’ll do it our way.

The sure test of a fool (or a wise person) is to watch his response to being corrected: “Do not reprove a mocker (worse than a fool) or he will hate you; reprove a wise person and he will love you.” (Pro 9:8 NET) Anyone who doesn’t like being corrected is demonstrating he is a fool. On the other hand, the wise person loves to be corrected because he knows the dangers of foolishness and the benefits of wisdom living. Anyone who cares about someone enough to risk confronting them graciously, and to share practical wisdom applications is going to be beloved.

Practical obedience and real worship

The measure of our relationship with our Savior is evident by our attitude towards His instructions: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15 NET). Taking God at His word Who offers us His grace for salvation is wonderful, but the depth of a relationship with Him is built on paying equal attention to all He commands. How much interest in and commitment to His commands is the measure of your true worship?

Jesus told his disciples to be “teaching them (their disciples) to obey all things that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). What are all these commands? He gave the church more than 400 to put into practice. This may be the most overlooked aspect of the NT. When have these commands been the core focus of the church?

No one is self-sufficient

Even the great preacher Apollos, “an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures” (Act 18:24 NET), was deficient in some areas, so “when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Act 18:26 NKJ). Apollos’ love for God’s wisdom and truth kept him humble and eager for correction.

It appears that wisdom is not natural to our self-centered way of thinking so we need diligently to seek it out (Prov 2:1-5) and to receive it when confronted as a father confronts a son, “My child, be attentive to my wisdom, pay close attention to my understanding,” (Pro 5:1 NET).

Constant reiterations

In fact, we are to “exhort one another daily” (Heb 3:13 NKJ) to be obedient to the commands. Receiving exhortation to practice His will from another believer is the key way to assure we are walking His way. It is so easy to forget important instruction that we need to be constantly reminded of them. Peter wrote of the necessity of reiterating instructions they may have heard previously, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.” (2Pe 1:12 NKJ)

As great athletes need diligent coaches and peer players willing to reiterate and insist on maintaining the “basics” or “fundamentals” of their sport in order to excel. Team athletes are constantly challenging and encouraging one another. In a similar manner, believers need leaders and brothers to keep before each other the commands that will build them into His likeness and maturity.

Together in the battle

Most of the NT commands are in the plural form, implying that it is not that “I” have to obey them, but “we” have to obey the commands together (not just individually). Believers are a team battling sin, the flesh and the devil. We must learn to do it together by exhorting each other and by being exhorted. If we want to win in life, we have to do it together.

I’m thankful a man I did not even know came into my life and saved our marriage by challenging us to practice the relationship commands in Scriptures.