Nathele Graham – [email protected]
Should we correct fellow Christians when we see them following the wrong path? There’s a fine line between judging and correcting, but Scripture tells us we need to help each other follow the straight and narrow path. We live in a time when it seems there’s no shame in sin, but Scripture defines sin and says there is shame in embracing it.
I’ve heard it said that B.I.B.L.E. stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, but many Christians don’t even know what Scripture teaches. The words found on the pages of the Bible are God’s guidelines for the way a Christian should live and we need to search Scripture diligently and apply it to our daily life. We shouldn’t “act” like a Christian in the same way an actor pretends to be someone he isn’t in order to play a role. Our faith in Christ should lead us to crucify the lusts of the flesh and honestly live a life that’s set apart from the sin of the world and honours our Lord. Christians need to exhort each other to stand firm in our faith.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” Hebrews 10: 25.
Exhort means to encourage each other. The writer of Hebrews says not to forsake assembling together with fellow Christians in order to encourage each other to resist the sin around us. This isn’t just a Sunday morning assembly, but Christians need to be friends with fellow Christians and get together with each other on a daily basis. If your friends are secular and worldly they won’t exhort you to live for Christ. On the other hand, if your friends are Christians you’ll encourage each other to put worldly ways behind you and keep your eyes on Christ.
One of the favorite sayings of someone who loves their sin is “The Bible says not to judge”. That’s true, but that’s taken out of context. First of all, we aren’t to judge to condemn, but rather discern to encourage repentance. None of us are perfect, so we must first judge our own actions. Use Scripture to see the sin in your own life and prayerfully ask for God’s strength to move away from it.
You’re living a double standard if you judge and condemn a fellow Christian for their sin but excuse and accept your own. A good example of discerning sin and exhorting repentance is found in the Old Testament. King David was an extraordinary man. He loved the Lord, but was as human as anybody. He lusted after Bathsheba, impregnated her, and made sure her husband died. Surprisingly, David was blind to his sin. Anybody who has a basic understanding of the Ten Commandments can see the sins he committed, but somehow David didn’t see anything wrong with what he had done.
Using Scripture for discernment isn’t wrong, and Nathan the Prophet confronted David. Nathan was brave to bring this to David’s attention, but by doing so David understood his sin and was broken over it. He went before the Lord and earnestly repented.
“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Psalm 51:2-4.
Nathan exhorted David and brought the sin to his attention. I’m sure that Nathan had his own sins he was dealing with, but cared enough about David to point out the sin he had fallen into.
The New Testament writers wrote letters to various congregations exhorting the people to turn from sin. Were they judging?
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:11-12.
Non-Christians judge all the time. They look at Christians and see our imperfections and judge our Lord and Saviour by our actions. If we embrace sin then what are we showing the unsaved world about Jesus? His death on the cross was ugly and violent. He took your sin and my sin upon Himself and shed His blood to purchase our redemption. Does that mean anything to you? When we continue to embrace and justify “fleshly lusts” we mock Him. The unsaved people around us only see that Christians sin and judge Jesus by our actions. If we exhort each other to move away from sin we honour Jesus who gave His life so we may live. We also become a living testimony to friends and family as to the power of God.
Paul wrote many letters of encouragement exhorting Christians to live God-fearing lives. He wasn’t judging people, just their actions. Corinth was a city full of sin and idolatry and the congregation there was influenced by the pagan culture around them. Paul pointed out the fact that such practices had to stop. Using Scripture he could easily discern that God wasn’t being respected in Corinth. In fact, one man was living a very sinful life and the whole congregation was proud that they weren’t judging him. Paul took them to task.
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2.
Paul discerned the sin and exhorted the congregation not to accept it. Today we see that sexual sin is rampant among Christians. Whether that sin is fornication, adultery, or homosexuality it cannot be tolerated within a congregation. It’s Scriptural to use discernment to exhort those embracing such things to change their way of life or remove them from the congregation. Sin is sneaky. If “tolerant” Christians embrace one person’s sin, then sin gets a toehold and soon all manner of sin is accepted. Instead of being set apart from the world, whose god is Satan, the congregation becomes exactly like the world instead of becoming more like Jesus.
In Corinth, the man was removed from the congregation. We learn later that because of discernment and holding Scripture as a guide, the man repented and changed his life. At that point he was welcomed back into fellowship. We must exhort each other to live a Christian life.
The word “exhort” comes from the Greek word parakaleo, which Vines Expository Dictionary defines as “to admonish, exhort, to urge” some course of conduct. While we are to encourage all Christians to live morally according to Scripture, Peter especially exhorted the leaders of congregations to “feed the flock” they lead. Peter understood this because he was exhorted directly by Jesus to feed the flock. Peter learned the lesson and knew how important it is for leaders to feed their own flock.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:1-3.
This is something that’s lacking today. In this day and age of tickling ears and caving in to political correctness, God’s word is diluted and the elders are to blame. If the pastor of a congregation won’t feed meat to the congregation, but instead will let them go undernourished by just feeding them milk, then there will be no exhortation to live by the Scriptures. That happened in Corinth and it’s happening today.
Scripture not only gives us the guidelines for living and tells us to encourage others to follow those guidelines, it tells us how to go about it. Do we embarrass others by calling them out? Do we point fingers and make accusations? We can look to Scripture to see how to exhort others.
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:1 a.
ike Paul, we need to be meek and gentle. The word “beseech” is translated from the same Greek word for “exhort”. Paul used Jesus as an example, and so should we. Jesus was gentle towards sinners, but never left them in sin. We always need to be aware of the feelings of others when exhorting them, but there can be no compromise of Scripture.
“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.” Ephesians 4:1-3.
Encourage each other with patience and love. It’s important to study Scripture and know what’s morally acceptable to God. Then we need to examine our own lives and remove the sin that is within us.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Matthew 7:3.
If you point a finger of accusation at someone else, remember there are three fingers pointing back at you. It’s important to develop friendships with fellow Christians so that we can encourage each other to overcome sin. Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. That forgiveness came at a great cost to God and isn’t a license to continue to sin.
Encouraging each other to move away from sin isn’t the only reason to exhort each other. We also need to help each other to do good works in the name of Jesus.
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20.
Salvation isn’t based on works, but works should be a natural outcome of our faith. We are often unaware of a need in someone’s life, but as Christians we should exhort each other to see the needs of others and do what we can to help.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” Hebrews 10:24.
Non-Christians will see our kindness and know that the works are done for Christ. Christians need each other for encouragement to live for Christ and to do good works in His name.
As we draw near to the end of days we see that wickedness in the world is growing strong. Christians have to turn away from the wickedness found in the world and walk in the way of Jesus. We need to search Scripture daily and recognize the sin in our own life and change it.
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” Hebrews 3:13.
Using Scripture as a guide we need to exhort each other to take up our cross and follow Christ.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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