A couple of weeks ago, we presented an article that highlighted a warning about the danger of spiritual hardening. The passage that formed the basis for that discussion included an admonition regarding the counteractive measure of exhortation, as well. The divisive, spiritually oppressive, and deceitfully seductive culture surrounding us compels me not to leave it without investing some additional attention. Taking another look at what God had to say is an appropriate place to begin.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. …Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:12–13; 15b NKJV)
More than a Suggestion~
Exhortation is not a minor issue in the New Testament. It’s mentioned directly or alluded to in more than 40 instances. God established exhortation as an effective weapon to counteract sin’s power to seductively transform faithful advocates into rebellious enemies. It’s not surprising, then, that exhortation was a distinctive element in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. He did more than suggest it, he demonstrated it wherever he went, as this reminder to the church in Thessalonica affirms:
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (Thessalonians 2:10-12 NKJV)
Personal exhortation is one of the ways we can visibly demonstrate what it means to “love one another.” And because Jesus declared that loving one another was to be a distinctive characteristic of His followers (John 13:35), then the consistent practice of exhortation should be one of the things that distinguishes Christians from the prevailing culture. Multiple New Testament Scriptures advocate the practice of exhortation, but the following passage encapsulates God’s expectation regarding the issue:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25 NKJV)
Innumerable opportunities arise in the normal ebb and flow of life that invite us to exhort one another, with multitudes of ways we can engage with others. Since attempting to address the many forms of expression that exhortation can take would be futile in this limited space, adopting a different perspective would be more potentially beneficial.
A Challenging Admonition ~
As we highlighted in the passage quoted earlier, God admonished us to exhort one another daily. That may seem like a daunting challenge at first glance, but there are ways that we unconsciously engage in exhortation every day. Many of the things we do in our everyday routines send a message in one way or another, and we often fail to recognize that those messages become exhortations.
What God instructs us to offer to others is personal acknowledgement in a way that encourages, inspires, but also represents feedback that can lead to correction and improvement. Exhortation recognizes the efforts of others and reassures them that they are not alone. It can be a powerful incentive for those who are struggling, who feel isolated and ready to quit. We can all relate to how an exuberant expression of confidence coming from someone who believes that we can beat the odds, overcome the obstacles, and be victorious is often the key that unlocks resources we didn’t know we had. God calls us to do more than just talk. He designed exhortation to be a communication link that connects our heart, mind, and spirit to someone else whose resources in those areas are depleted.
Exhortation is powerful . . .
- It can strengthen the weak and energize the weary.
- It can re-ignite imagination and generate hope for those who feel like they’re lost in a maze.
- It can reinforce faith for those who are stymied by doubt and fear.
- A timely exhortation can make winners out of losers, turn tears of despair into joyous shouts of praise.
- It can deny the urge to quit and transform failures into victorious champions. No wonder the devil hates it.
An Embedded Concept ~
There is warfare going on in this divisive culture, and if we look closely at the weapons being used, we find the powerful concept of exhortation deeply embedded in the heart of it. It may be clearer if we engage our imagination and put it in a more familiar context . . .
Picture an athlete or performer trying their best, but not having a good day. In spite of every concentrated effort, they keep falling just a bit short of the mark. They begin to feel like an embarrassing failure, doubting whether they should even be there. Feelings of self-condemnation and shame creep in. Thoughts of giving up and quitting become powerfully appealing. But in the midst of their struggle, something happens. The crowd seems to sense the unseen struggle, and suddenly people begin to leap to their feet and the thunder of applause fills the arena. The atmosphere vibrates with cheers and shouts of approval. People stomping their feet, shout words of encouragement, and wave their hands in unrestrained gratitude and approval. Do you think that response would matter to the lone figure standing on the stage or the one standing exhausted on the field?
A Concentrated Attack ~
If you doubt the devil’s commitment to dismantling the impact of exhortation among Christians and co-opting its power, just consider the role of the “Cancel Culture” in the spiritual and cultural warfare raging around us every day. When censorship blocks vital avenues of communication and denies our freedom to express what we believe, many of our opportunities to extend expressions of exhortation to others are severely restricted. Those whom Paul called the enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:17-19) are aware of the unifying and energizing power of exhortation and are seeking to eliminate every vestige of it. Tragically, our fear of social repercussions has allowed them to achieve incredible success.
But that’s only part of the problem. Not only have many of our vital avenues of communication been effectively cut off, multitudes have been seduced into sending exhortations to the enemy. “When we support anti-Christian lifestyles and causes by supporting their productions, displaying their logos, voting for their candidates, consuming their products, sending our children to be indoctrinated in their schools and accepting their view of morality, we’re exhorting them, strengthening them, encouraging them and motivating them to increase their efforts against us.
God’s exhortation to us is clear, and our personal response is more vital and more powerful than ever . . . It’s time to stop encouraging those who attack us and stop cowering in fear when they do.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
“God calls us to do more than just talk. He designed exhortation to be a communication link that connects our heart, mind, and spirit to someone else whose resources in those areas are depleted.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“If you doubt the devil’s commitment to dismantling the impact of exhortation among Christians and co-opting its power, just consider the role of the “Cancel Culture” in the spiritual and cultural warfare raging around us every day.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“When censorship blocks vital avenues of communication and denies our freedom to express what we believe, many of our opportunities to extend expressions of exhortation to others are severely restricted.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Supporting anti-Christian lifestyles & causes by voting for their candidates, sending our children to be indoctrinated in their schools, & accepting their view of morality exhorts & strengthens them & tells them to increase their efforts.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“God’s exhortation to us is clear, and our personal response is more vital and powerful than ever. It’s time to stop encouraging those who attack us and stop cowering in fear when they do.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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