GOD’S PLAN FOR THE CHURCH
The church was given a great and marvelous goal by our Lord. We are, as a church, to present Jesus as the only Savior for this world, we are also to make of those saved, to be disciples, and we are to exhort and encourage each other, growing from glory to glory. The church is to be a body of believers, that the sick, dying, sinful world should see as a beacon on a hill, as a lighthouse to the dark stormy waters of life, as a loving nurse to the healing, as a wise counsel in a confusing world. Many churches cannot be described those ways.
Have we accomplished any of those roles? Has the church even come close to be an evangelical, disciple training, healing church?
"...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot , or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Christ is preparing the church for its rapture. He wants and is demanding that it be holy at that time. The last days are to have a double portion healing power and help in the preparing of the church for its rapture to heaven. The harvest of tares (Matthew 13) is to help purify the church by removing the apostates and false prophets of the church in the last days.
To be the healing body, presenting healing to a sick world, and a sick church, there is a third program we need to utilize. This third method of the Lord will purify and heal many. It is a restoration of the gift of exhortation to the church of the last days.
Christ Jesus wants a powerful church. The church must be purified to reach the power needed for that time. Some argue that the church will always have sin. Does that mean we should tolerate and engender more sin? God forbid! We have been blind to many sins. Some sins we don't want to admit. We have tended to play church - while the fires of hell rage about the church. The gift of exhortation needs to be exercised daily.
Society has organized Alcoholics Anonymous, AL Anon, and therapy groups; it has hired psychiatrists, psychologists; and it has read and recommended ‘self help’ books. These can be, often are, helpful to a world of pain and suffering in their souls. Yet, the church was supposed to also be much more involved in the healing ministry. Laying hands on someone with years of family grief, hidden scars from abuse, tormenting addictions, guilt from non-remembered events of the past, etc does not present the healing needed for these ones.
The church has become an anemic, pathetically pew filling, but no caring for the pains of others, institution. The sins of the church will out. One method that the Lord has used to make the church get serious about restoring the gift of exhortation, is to shine the spotlight on the sins within the church and its leadership. The world has laughed and criticized the church. They have seen hidden sins revealed, and they have made many a saint hang their head in shame. Pedophiles, adulterers, fornicators, abusers of mates, and children, homosexuals, thieves, murderers, haters of non-Christians, fanatical debaters, in the churches, have made the church look like a place to avoid, not a place to congregate. In that pathetical spiritual state, it is a place to avoid, or to change via a healing first for itself.
Many would rather relate their troubles, their inner pains, to a bartender, than to a church member. Many would rather pay an exorbitant fee to a non-Christian psychiatrist than to search out a body of believers that would exhort, pray, counsel, and love them, for they do not know that kind of church exists.
The answer is exhortation. We have dishonored God by neglecting to stir up this gift in the church. The gift of exhorting is the supernatural exercising of the ministry of comforting the hurting, encouraging the downcast, correcting the ones in error, guiding the wayward, defending the victims, and rebuking the victimizers. This gift allows the exhorters to get up next to the hurting, falling, troubled saints and help them.
Most sins within the church are not blatant. Some criticize another because they are hurt themselves. Some cry and become discouraged because of another's criticism. Some gossip facts that God allowed them to know for the purpose of intercession. Until the saints are exhorted properly in the Lord, these sins will continue. If one’s psychologist would publish, gossip, and advertise their clients’ problems, they would have their license taken from them. The church gossips the troubles of each other, it calls the troubled names, it isolates themselves from those with ‘baggage’, and it wonders why people do not rush to their doors.
In I Corinthians 5, it was not the incest, but the failure of the congregation to use the proper corrective exhortation, that bothered Paul the most. Evidently, the congregation thought it was doing great. They probably looked at the sin, and thought how loving, patient, and accepting, they were being. Many a congregation today has also prided itself on its tolerance of sins within the congregation.
Paul said of the congregation in Corinth:
I Corinthians 5:2,6-8
"And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned...Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened."
Because it had gone on so long, it would take drastic action in Corinth to correct the problem. Had they had the gift of exhortation in operation, the problem could have been handled without such drastic action.
If proper exhortation had takes place, and if the congregation follows God's prescribed plan of church discipline, of loving exhortation, of intercession and Bible teaching, many a member of the church could have been spared the lies, and shameful accusations framed against them. Many who flee the church when they see the shameful acts of the troublemakers would still attend that church. Some who backslide, or run from the church, at the sight of so-called saints acting in such sinful ways would rather be serving the Lord, and in a process of healing through the loving exhortation from those in the church.
Every single member of a congregation who is aware of a hurting, spiritually sick, emotionally pained person in the congregation, is failing the Lord, failing the plan of God for the church, unless proper action is taken to correct the situation.
Exhortation is the ministry gift given to a congregation to correct problems of sin, to heal those with pain and scars from their own, or others’ sins against them. Unless someone goes lovingly to the spiritually sick person, with the object of establishing truth, effecting righteousness, bringing reconciliation, exhorting toward restoration, encouraging the pained persons, then the failure of the church is poison to the whole of the congregation.
Condoning a sin, ignoring the victims of sin, inaction of exhortation as a congregation represents rebellion against God and His Word. The congregations have too long sat in pews and failed to help and to heal those with sickness of the heart, grief from mistreatment of the world, and agony of a troubled life.
It has made the church to become an institution that the world can easily condemn. The church appears directionless. The unreconciled divisions and conflicts contradict the message that the church is to be preaching.
The first thing that must be done to start the ministry of exhortation is to confess our faults and sins.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another."
We are uncomfortable about this part, and it has kept many a congregation from ever beginning an exhortation ministry. We fear standing before many to confess inner, secret sins of which we are ashamed. Many in the church are trying to present themselves holy, pure, and un-troubled, like the pharisees of Bible times. None of us should put out that fake pride, and we need to admit to all, that all of us, are troubled by this sinful world. We are scarred from our own sins, hurting still from the sins of others upon us, and still battling a sinful nature that needs healing.
Yet, the verse about confessing our faults, does not say that it must always be done publicly before all of the congregation. The gossiping, backbiting, attacking congregations found in many churches, needs a lot of healing before one could go to the whole congregation with humble admissions of one’s own fallibility.
Confession begins with God, but then an intercessor needs to be sought. This intercessor with love (not a gossip or a criticizer) can be the one to whom the sins and faults are confessed. Then this intercessor can go to God on your behalf and seek guidance with the confessor.
Because the Roman Catholic congregations have had priest and the confessional, many protestant congregations have totally (and un-Scripturally) neglected the necessity of the obedience to James 5:16. Since some have mis-used, and mis-applied the confession of sins and faults does not mean we should throw out the truth of the teaching. God does want us to go to a loving intercessor and confess faults. If one cannot confess to a loving intercessor what has already been confessed and repented to God, then there is something unreal in the confession to God.
The confession is meant to involve a real encounter with a real person. This kind of confession brings healing. It opens the way for deliverance and healing for the one who is confessing. It startles the wayward into a deeper awareness of the sinfulness of the sin. It humbles the person to admit their lack of perfection, and thus allows the Spirit to proceed with the healing and restoration. It also benefits the person hearing the confession. It allows them to intercede and then be used with the ministry of exhortation by the Holy Spirit.
It will take great changes within congregations to effect this type of confession.
First, the congregation must realize the only aim is reconciliation.
Secondly, the intercessors must be willing to give of themselves wholeheartedly to the ministry of intercession and exhortation.
Thirdly, the ones who have faults must agree to not withdraw when heartache and painful stabs to their heart reoccur.
Finally, all must refuse to give up when disruption, sin, depression, despair, and faults occur. A doctor rushes to the room of one having a relapse into the sickness. More medicine is given, life sustaining measures are called upon. The church needs to do their exhortation ministry with the same resolve, and seek to save those with such troubles.
If the ministry of confession can be effected within a congregation, the congregation will have revival. Whenever God begins giving a congregation revival, He tests them. The test is to purify the congregation from its remaining sins. Sins that hinder, sins that cripple, sins that spot and wrinkle the church are to be exposed and confessed. If the church adequately did the ministry of confession, intercession and exhortation, the healings would continue and grow. Some with great heartache may come, their past lives, their hurts may shock some. The loving exhortation may not always be easy, and the forgiveness for their backsliding away from the Lord on occasion, is still necessary for continued healing ministry of the church.
To avoid this confession part of exhortation, will avoid the furthering of the revival. The stubborn sins that the saints refuse to confess will extinguish revival fires. The hurts and pains of past traumas must be shared as one is enabled to share, via the love and understanding given by the ones exhorting. True healing continues as the saints continue to expose their sins to God, and seek an intercessor to pray with them about the sins.
The ministry of exhortation is being revived within the last day church. Just as the ministry of intercession has seen a restoration of exercise, so the ministry of exhortation is being stirred into revitalization. The procedures need to be studied. The operation of the gift needs understood. The mis-use and mis-application of procedures of exhortation needs correction. The besetting sins of a congregation are the sins that arise from weakness. They could be called "addictive sins." They are sins like - bad temper, bad disposition, perpetual grouchiness, critical spirit, gossip, etc. They keep the church from one of its main missions, i.e. to be an effective, healing, exhorter.
"...the sin that doth so easily beset us..."
Congregations are haunted by unhappy Christians who don't have victory over specific sins. Within the congregations are people who are angry, bitter, untruthful, greedy, gossipy, etc. From these sins come an array of church problems. If left to continue in a congregation, these besetting sins will keep a group from real revival, from the power of God being able to effect changes in an area. Who would trust a church member with such a pathetic group of besetting sins, to be the one to encourage and spiritually advise them?
Why do these sins exist and continue? There are reasons, as -Christian naivete', Christian worldliness, Christian selfishness, and congregations that have ceased to allow the gift of exhortation to function on even themselves.
Some Christians are so naive about sin. Some become so impressed about the potential of victorious Christian living that they try to ignore sins about them. A congregation can become so "victory conscious" that they sin and pretend it is not there. It is vital that a congregation become aware of sins within the camp. Joshua did not know of Achan's sin, and it cost the nation a crucial battle. We must open our eyes to sin, and not only admit it - but begin to deal with it. Repentance is not a bad thing, it is a way to keep our lives close to Jesus, keep walking in the light of His glory. It brings blessing, not trouble.
Some are not just blind to the sin about them, they have entered into the sin. The love for God has been replaced by a love of things. Some Christians have been brainwashed by life to believe that Christians have the right to things, pleasures, and opinions. The church of Laodicea is described as blind to the fact of their spiritual poverty. They are counseled to buy eye ointment to cure their blindness. Some in congregations today need to get their spiritual eyesight back, and be able to see the difference between righteousness and sin. A church indulging in worldliness will find it nigh to impossible to be an ‘exhorter’, encourager, wise counsel, to those who need healing from the effects of the world upon them.
Cain said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Many Christians today do not want to be bothered by the faults and hurts of other saints. Many do not want to spend time helping a troubled one. People can get so taken up with the committees, meetings, and activities of a congregation that they have no time to help the troubled. It takes tolerance to deal with the hurting. Too many shrink back and want someone else to do it. Some are too proud to deal with the troubled. Some in the congregations feel that the hurting saints are disgusting and pathetic. They are often like the priest and the Levite that passed by the man that the good Samaritan eventually helped. To be a ‘healing’ body of believers, the church needs to become more like Jesus, Who put the souls of mankind far above His desire for the comforts of heaven. He emptied Himself of selfishness.
In many congregations, the saints lie to cover their sins. They lie to themselves, and give their sins pretty names. They want to cover the guilt that the Holy Spirit wants to use to awaken them to the need of repentance. They end up with consciences that are seared and scarred. They present smiley fronts, and spiritual masks. This spiritual self-deception is the hardest nut to crack. The feeling of the need of exhortation is gone from these congregations. The minister speaks of sins of those not present. The congregation tries to keep itself to a group who think they are the epitome of righteousness. Any who are humble and repentant are shunned or shamed till they leave the building. The troubled, sin-struggling saint is encouraged to find another place to worship.