Preach the Word: Exhort!

September 10, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A couple weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition, “exhort.”

The Greek word behind “exhort” is parakaleo. In English translations of the NT, the word is variously translated as exhort, plead, beg, urge, beseech, or even encourage. Whereas the one who rebukes stands in front of another and points out his error, the one who exhorts comes alongside him and urges him to imitate Christ in his daily life. So Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…” (5:1). While to “rebuke” is to deliver a short, verbal thrashing, to “exhort” is to appeal, to sidle up beside a fellow believer and direct their eyes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Exhortations, therefore, are grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The minister of the Gospel is to “exhort” people to remember Jesus Christ and to imitate His character in their own lives. So consider various “exhortations” that Paul gives in his letters:
· Romans 15:30 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
· 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…
· 2 Corinthians 10:1 — Now I, Paul, myself am “exhorting” you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ….
· 1 Thessalonians 4:1 — Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
· 2 Thessalonians 3:12 — Now those who are [busybodies] we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Note carefully that in each “exhortation” Paul brings us back to Christ’s salvific work. As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The exhortation is distinguished from a mere moral appeal by this reference back to the work of salvation as its presupposition and basis.” Consider Christ – consider who He is, consider what He has done, consider what He has promised – and in that knowledge, act.

So reminded that Christ is our example and that we routinely fail to imitate Him in our attitudes and actions, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Trinity Sunday – God Saves Sinners

May 27, 2013 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Justification, Meditations, Sanctification, Trinity, Worship

2 Thessalonians 2:13–15 (NKJV)
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has set aside to remind the people of God that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God. Later in worship we will recite the Athanasian Creed, one creedal attempt to give expression to the Scriptural teaching on the Trinity.
For the moment, I would like you to consider why the doctrine of the Trinity is important and would like to answer that question by reference to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: for Paul’s words highlight that our salvation, our deliverance from sin and death, is wholly and completely in the hands of God. Notice his words to the Thessalonians: God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father chose us, the Spirit sets us apart, the Son is the One into whose image we are transformed by the Spirit because He is the One who gave His life in our place. Salvation is wholly and completely in the hands of God.
J.I. Packer explains the significance of Paul’s words this way. He writes, “For [in Scripture] there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology [salvation]: the point that God saves sinners.
·      God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
·      Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
·      Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.
God saves sinners and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour… sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but…salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.”
One value of observing Trinity Sunday is that it reminds us of this very fact – that all we were, all we are, and all we yet will be – comes as a result of God’s grace and mercy toward us. So let us confess that we have often failed to praise the Lord for saving us from our sin and helplessness.

Suspension from the Supper

January 24, 2012 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Public Suspension of —– —–
2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians with several exhortations to the congregation at large. He begins by urging them, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Note that Paul’s command presumes that it is possible to grow weary in doing good – after all, we don’t warn about things that aren’t possibilities. In endeavoring to do good we face much opposition – both from within and from without – and so Paul commands us to never grow weary. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the lusts of our own flesh, often make the task of doing good challenging, the temptation to grow weary alluring.
Because of the strength of this temptation, the temptation to give up doing good and simply start doing whatever, Paul exhorts the church to take seriously those who refuse to obey the Word of God. As Paul remarks elsewhere, a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. If a congregation permits sin to go unchecked, then that congregation cannot be surprised when such sin spreads. So notice that Paul urges the Thessalonians to act – “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, the Thessalonians are to “note” – mark – point out – publicly identify such a one. Second, they are to refuse to keep company – refuse to enjoy communion, including normal fellowship at the Lord’s Supper – with such a one. Why? What is the purpose of this marking? This suspending of normal fellowship? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of this discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”
It is with sober hearts that the elders inform you today – in accordance with Paul’s words that such things are to be announced in the public assembly (1 Cor 5:4) – that —– —– is being suspended from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper.
For some time —– has been wavering in her service of Christ. During this time numerous folks have endeavored to encourage her and come alongside her. Within the last two weeks, however, she has made clear that she is turning away from Jesus and embracing a life of sin. It has become plain that for many months she has been lying to and deceiving her parents and others, using them to further her own selfish ends. She has been committing and is continuing to commit sexual immorality. She has rejected the Bible’s authority, declaring that it is not relevant for today. She has intentionally absented herself from corporate worship and avoided accountability.
—–’s parents and the elders have spoken to her and urged her to turn back to Jesus, to beware trampling under foot the blood of the covenant by which she was distinguished from the world. She has rejected these overtures. Our Lord commands us in Matthew 18:15-17:
““Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church…
In accordance with these words of our Lord, that when a brother or sister will not hear the exhortations of two or three witnesses the matter is to be brought before the church, the elders are bringing —–’s sin to your attention. Our purpose in so doing is twofold: first, that you would pray for —– and her family that the Lord would give —– eyes to see and ears to hear, that she would return to the Lord and flee from the foolish and destructive path that she is choosing. We know that all of us by nature are frail and prone to sin and deception, that but for the grace of God we would turn from him and serve self, and so let us pray that He would indeed have mercy upon her, bringing to her mind and heart the many things which she has been taught over the years.

Second, our purpose in bringing this to your attention is that you would consider writing to —–, expressing your love for her as a member of this body and urging her to repent and return to Jesus. The elders will provide you with contact information in the week to come should you choose to do so.
Suspending —– from the Lord’s Supper is an act of love, “For whom the Lord loves he disciplines even as a father the son in whom he delights.” —– is our sister and so as we admonish her we treat her “not as an enemy but as a beloved” sister who has lost her way. And these reminders of the deceitfulness of sin remind all of us of our need to confess our sins to the Lord. So let us kneel as we confess our sins and pray for our sister.
Our Father,
We are prone to sin, tempted to grow weary doing good. The temptations of the Evil One distract us, the enticements of the world draw us away, the lusts of our own flesh incline us toward evil. But for your sustaining grace we would each pursue our own way rather than the way of Jesus. We none of us by nature desire to take up our cross and follow Jesus – for following Jesus means dying to sin and self and none of us relish the prospect. We pray your mercy upon us. Remember your lovingkindness and mercy toward our sister —–. Restore her to her knees that she would bow before you and seek your forgiveness, that she would abandon the path of sin and destruction on which she has set herself and that she would return ot the narrow way that leads to life. We pray also that you would keep all of us from sin and deception, pour out your grace upon us that we would hunger and long for righteousness and purity and every good way. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and by the power of Your Spirit,
Amen.


Suspension from the Lord’s Supper

February 25, 2011 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Several weeks ago we spoke of the necessity of discipline within the Christian community. Even as our fathers separated themselves from the mixed multitude in Nehemiah’s day, the church is commanded to publicly censure those professing the Name of Christ who refuse to obey the Word of God. Listen as Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of this public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper:

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Paul begins his words on discipline with an exhortation to the congregation at large, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Note that Paul’s command presumes that it is a temptation to grow weary in doing good – after all, we don’t warn about things that aren’t threats. In endeavoring to do good we face much opposition – both from within and from without – and so Paul commands us to never grow weary. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the lusts of our own flesh, often make the task of doing good challenging. Add to this that other people frequently discourage us from doing good and we begin to understand that the temptation to grow weary is indeed great.

Because of the strength of this temptation, the temptation to give up doing good and simply start doing whatever, Paul exhorts the church to take seriously those who refuse to obey the Word of God. As Paul remarks elsewhere, a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. If a congregation permits sin to go unchecked, then that congregation cannot be surprised when such sin spreads. So notice that Paul urges the Thessalonians to act – “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, the Thessalonians are to “note” – mark – point out – publicly identify such a one. Second, they are to refuse to keep company – refuse to enjoy communion, including normal fellowship at the Lord’s Supper – with such a one. Why? What is the purpose of this marking? This suspending of normal fellowship? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of this discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”

It is with sober hearts that the elders inform you today – in accordance with Paul’s words that such things are to be announced in the public assembly (1 Cor 5:4) – that ———— have been suspended from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. For the last eight years and more the elders of Christ Church in Spokane and the elders of Trinity Church have endeavored to help ———– overcome sinful habits of communication in their home. These sinful habits include anger, outbursts of wrath, malice, dissension, lies, false accusations, bitterness, resentment, and all manner of evil speech (cf. Eph 4:25-32; Col 3:8-11). Despite repeated warnings and numerous attempts at accountability these habits have remain unchanged. As a result, ———— are living separately for the second time in as many years. Because they have failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore them to one another and to the fellowship.

In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not treat [them] as enemies but admonish them as our brother and sister.” Your duty is to pray for and admonish ————- as professing Christians to repent of their sinful conduct and be restored to one another and to the body. And remember that we are to do this in a spirit of gentleness, taking care lest we also be tempted (cf. Gal 6:1-5). How might you be tempted in the midst of correcting them?

• Pride – Imagining that you yourself are above such sins and superior to ————-. Such is not the case. But for the grace of God, we would all be in like circumstances. So please pray for ———–, asking God to show them mercy.
• Gossip – Using this as an opportunity to speak uncharitably about ———– with others rather than as an opportunity to pray for them and long for their restoration.
• Slander – Listening to false accusations that may be made against the elders, accusing us of heavy-handedness or insensitivity in disciplining them. Let us assure you that this action is the culmination of years of patient shepherding that has borne no fruit.
• Flattery – Listening to sob stories from either ———- in which they blame others for their plight. By listening you would be allowing them to say what they want to say rather than calling them to hear what they need to hear. Admonish them to deal with their own sin in a godly fashion – by confessing it to the Lord and forsaking it (2 Cor 7:8-12).

These warnings against sin serve as a reminder to all of us of our need to confess our sins to the Lord. So let us confess our sins – first privately and then corporately using the prayer found in your bulletin. Let us kneel as we confess our sins together.