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Shining the Light on a Family in Darkness
“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil. In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields. Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD”
(Micah 2: 1-5).

07/08/00 Version 7.08 For The Watchman DRAFT: Comments Welcome

Three Words for Exhorters

The Bible says, "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2Cor. 13:5). Is it possible to be a Christian, to be churched, even to stand in the pulpit as one called to preach, yet to be "gone out of the way. . ." (Rom. 3:12)? The Bible answers, yes, in many ways! Ample scriptures warn Christians, even ministers, against falling into sin and iniquity. The apostle Paul himself confessed to such weakness, when he said: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1Cor. 9:27). He exhorts: "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebr. 12:1). Every Christian is plagued with at least one natural inclination toward a "sin which doth so easily beset us." For some that natural weakness is lust, either for money or illicit sex or power or material possessions. For others it is the tongue, through gossip, slander, or backbiting. Still others suffer from pride, arrogance and conceit, a "holier than thou" (Isa. 65:5) attitude. Is your gift the exhorter? It is a powerful gift, when harnessed fully into God’s service. Great damage is wrought, when the natural exhorter slides out of control. How can every exhorter harness that gift fully into the service of the Almighty?

by Jerry Gentry

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12).

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1Pet. 4:10).

Everyone loves to be around exhorters! These people are on fire with enthusiasm. They are filled with excitement and electricity, a burning passion for their calling in life. They are talkers. They love people. They crave sharing ideas. They enjoy bringing others around to their point of view. They motivate you to expand your envelope of experience beyond your present "comfort zone." They lead you into "breakthroughs," into new heights of realization.

Natural born exhorters make the best salesmen in the world. When the same product or service is available from different sources, at similar prices, the best salesman closes the deal every time. He is the natural exhorter. He knows no stranger. He sells himself, and when you buy his product, you are buying into a relationship, often for life. As a natural exhorter, he "hath friends," because he "show[s] himself friendly" (Prov. 18:24). He wines you and dines you with his words, and makes you feel very special. You melt under his natural charisma, as putty in his hands. He is doing exactly what the Bible says to do. We can all learn much from exhorters, who have a natural way with people.

Exhorters are often great leaders, because they naturally inspire men to higher levels of sacrifice and service. Exhorters challenge us positively, inspire us to high hopes, and comfort us when we fall short. "Get back up, and try again! You can do it!" they tell us. We believe them. Even when we feel at our very worst, when our whole world seems to have turned upside down, exhorters are there to pick us up, encourage us and remind us that it is not the end. One of their favorite Bible verses states: "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). And how true it is, we know, and all the more so, when we hear it from an exhorter. These unique people are experts at seeing positive possibilities amidst a sea of negative circumstances. Natural exhorters add value to our lives, in the words they speak to us.

When exhorters rise to levels of leadership over others, followers feel that a little bit of heaven has come down to earth. When exhorters give praise, we rejoice in ecstacy. We want to get involved. It is an awesome feeling, a rush often so intense that followers tend to put the exhorter high on a pedestal. Exhorters have a natural charisma. We naturally want to do anything for such a person. An exhorter wife builds her husband’s ego by praising him, by giving him enthusiastic encouragement, by showing him possibilities he would never have dreamt of otherwise. Her excitement rubs off. He becomes motivated! He gets involved. He attacks his projects with drive and zeal and enthusiasm.

Exhorters take the mundane out of mundane tasks, turning them into a heavenly calling. Exhorters are God’s gift to jump start our lives. Being close to an exhorter, especially being married to one, is a most refreshing experience. Yet everyone who has enjoyed the constant "top side" nature of the exhorter has learned there is also a down side. Few will talk about that down side. It goes against the grain. That down side is treated mostly as "hush-hush." It goes against the very nature of the exhorter to consider and talk about his down side, which is often swept under the rug, where it is "out of sight and out of mind." But, sadly, though swept under the rug, that down side does not go away.

Everyone who has ever been close to an exhorter knows from experience how his sincere praise can sometimes turn into insincere flattery, how his enthusiastic encouragement can turn into a kind of seduction, and how our involvement can be misdirected through subtle manipulation. Few will risk his ire by exposing this dark side of an exhorter. The potential backlash is more than most of us dare risk. Repercussions are sometimes unthinkable. Will he slam the door in our face and cut us off? Yet we must take that risk. The exhorter who fails to take a deep look square in the eye, at his own dark side, is headed for trouble. Only true friends will go where more timid acquaintances dare not tread. True friendship is expressed best in a willingness to say what needs to be said, even in the face of possible rejection. The seasoned exhorter, when out of control, perfects covert double mindedness and dissembling, and develops these into a highly deceptive art form.

Exhorters motivate others naturally through sincere and justifiable praise. We all want to live up to such praise, which is highly persuasive and motivational. What is the dark side of praise? It is insincere flattery, the natural down side to sincere praise of the exhorter. Flattery is praise, but from the wrong motive. "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet"?(Prov. 29:5). At the end time, they that "understand among the people shall instruct many. . . but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end." (Dan 11:33,34-35). It is a time of purging.

Flattery is an expression of double mindedness which arises out of a spirit of dissembling. "He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him" (Prov. 26:24). To dissemble is to disguise or conceal behind a false appearance. We are all commanded: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (James 4:8). "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). It is true that "all men are liars" (Ps. 116:11). Flatterers amount a special kind of unstable double minded dissemblers. Flatterers have a secret design on you, in some way. Job tells us: "He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail" (Job 17:5). In other words, children pick up on a father’s flattery, which clouds their life vision with double standards. It leads to failure. Such children often feel lied to and cheated. They ultimately wring their hands in despair and turn elsewhere for direction. Worse still, they sometimes find direction through the manipulation of a strong willed spouse, and the pattern is repeated. The Bible tells us, "The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things" (Ps. 12:3).

What is the dark side of natural enthusiastic encouragement of the exhorter? It is found when exhortation turns selfish and becomes seduction, whereby the exhorter uses you for ulterior motives. Seduction follows flattery, just like involvement follows praise. The exhorter has already gained your confidence. You trust him. Now he cons you, often without your knowing it. The out of control exhorter has made compromises in his heart that he has not told you about. His true motives good or bad remain hidden, unstated. Later you sometimes discover that your natural involvement from his persuasive encouragement was manipulated. You have been used. You resent it, naturally and rightly. You have been flattered, seduced and manipulated, as opposed to praised, encouraged and involved. There is a subtle distinction at every level in the process.

Exhorters seldom are willing to confront this dark side of flattery, seduction and manipulation. It goes against their nature. It is easier to respond through denial. Who, me? It is almost beyond an exhorter’s capacity to think he might fall into such impure motives and unsavory behavior. He doesn’t want to look at the possibility. His natural inclination is is to live in the polite, bubbly world where enthusiasm best expresses itself. He doesn’t like to go to that deep, dark place in his soul that flatters, seduces and manipulates others, for his own secret purposes, which he justifies within himself. Such iniquity becomes second nature, without his conscious effort.

We must remember that every one of us, regardless of our primary natural gift, is commanded to cultivate all the gifts, which are outlined in Rom 12 and 1Cor 12. Givers do more than donate money. Teachers do more than dig up little known facts. Prophets do more than speak the word, and organizers do more than give orders. Mercy people do more than feel for us when we are sick. Servers do more than volunteer for clean up. And exhorters do far more than boost us along life’s road.

Every Christian is commanded to "covet earnestly the best gifts" (1Cor. 12:31), meaning all the gifts. It is therefore possible for any Christian, regardless of his natural gift, to fall victim to flattery, seduction and manipulation. However, this unholy trinity is the particular dark side of the exhorter. And the higher an exhorter rises in developing the positive side of his natural gift, the greater the danger of his falling into the depths of this dark side. It is a case where an exhorter’s greatest strength in life, also becomes his greatest vulnerability.

It is a popular thing to criticize the gift of the prophet, whose natural gift of discernment can sometimes fly instantly out of control in his zeal to get everything lined out quickly, as he sees it ought to be! Out of control prophets are often loud and boisterous, offensive in their behavior, easy to spot. They appear not to care what anyone around them thinks. Out of control prophets must bring their discernment in line with God’s word. Until that happens, out of control prophets are a curse to their families, their neighbors, the church and even to themselves.

In contrast, out of control exhorters are just the opposite. Instead of flying off the handle, they often remain calm, even sweet. Instead of "getting to the bottom" of a conflict or issue, they are quick to gloss over problems and leave them unresolved. Instead of drawing a hard line of truth, they tend to blur lines and create more space for disagreeing parties. They make excuses and change the subject. Out of control exhorters create wiggle room with words, as a substitute for speaking the clear word of God, which is often a much harder line. Out of control exhorters carry flattery to ultimate heights. Dialogue becomes a substitute for answers. Counsel reflects the hearer’s previously stated views. Against such flatterers, God warns: "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Isa. 29:13).

What is this "precept of men?" It is "making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13). It is "laying aside the commandment of God. . . [to] hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). Traditions are everywhere, especially among churches. Every church has it’s own cultural milieu, it’s own traditional comfort zones of truth mixed with error. There are no exceptions, no perfect churches. When truth exposes error within a given church or cultural milieu, the messenger is often discredited while the truth is denied by the out of control exhorter.

When an exhorter loses Godly balance, he moves deeper into the iniquity of his own soul. While his public persona is protected with impeccable precision, he privately operates in a life of deep iniquity. He attracts the very qualities he dispenses -- flattery, seduction and manipulation, often from those closest to him, whether spouse or children or close associates. They have learned how to respond to him subtly, in kind, as a survival mechanism, or to get what they want. They don’t want to get on the exhorter’s bad side. They have long ago learned that what he says is not always what he means. He promotes a polite environment where dissent is squelched and ideas are carefully monitored and limited. This environment becomes closed, suffocating, stulfifying. When conflicts arise, the out of control exhorter cannot draw on a bank account of past directness and genuine truthfulness. Therefore others learn not to give their whole heart, lest they be rended later by surprise. They have learned that little is ever really "for sure" with the out of control exhorter. His word is not his bond. What he told you yesterday may change today or tomorrow. He is fickle, capricious. When you first discover that truth, you are devastated.

At best, the out of control exhorter exercises a very selective memory. At worst, the out of control exhorter is guilty of lying and deceit. Due to his own dissembling, he attributes motives to others and often misjudges them. He attributes to others the machinations of his own questionable motives. At worst, the out of control exhorter fails to draw on Godly perception, while he makes one blunder after another in handling conflicts among people. When confilicts arise, he placates one, vilifies another, but never treats all the same. He dissembles. He shows favoritism. His ground rules are in flux. When others blow up, out of control, he justifies and discredits.

He is quick to deny charges levied against him. He points the finger back in an effort to discredit the very people who would help him most, if he only had ears to hear. The out of control exhorter gift is dangerous indeed!

In spite of this dark side, we love exhorters. They make us feel good. They endure much abuse, by the nature of their gift. When we feel the need for encouragement, we look to exhorters. They lift us out of the pit! No one wants to confront the out of control exhorter with his insincere flattery, his crafty seduction, his handy manipulation. It is almost unthinkable. Yet confront we must, from a pure heart of love and genuine concern. Otherwise, the exhorter moves further and further out of control, in the iniquity of his own self made blindness. The Bible says, "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (Prov. 16:6). "Open rebuke is better than secret love" (Prov. 27:5). Abraham sent his eldest servant Eliezer to find Isaac a wife, and God blessed this servant for at least one specific reason: "I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren" (Gen. 24:27). "Being in the way" is a fundamental prerequisite to our success regardless of our mission in life. Otherwise our lives become adrift at sea, hopelessly lost, "gone out of the way."

What is the best help we can give the out of control exhorter, who may be "gone out of the way?" It is simply to speak the truth in love with mercy, that is, tell him directly of his dissembling, as the apostle Paul exhorts: "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). The exhorter needs our directness, our open honesty, to help him see his blind side. If we join the out of control exhorter, in his iniquitous game of flattery, seduction and manipulation, we are no better than he. We certainly have not delivered his soul from the living hell he has made. Agreeing with him for the moment may be like sticking on a band aid, but it does not expose his root problem of dissembling and double mindedness. Feigned innocence will not cut the mustard. When he passes out his candy bars of flattery, we can say, "No thank you. I would not care for any." We must take care not to reject or condemn, if we are to help the out of control exhorter. When he showers us with praise and compliments, we can pray, "Lord let it be ‘neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’" (1Cor. 5:8). Insincerity is a lie, a malicious deceit, no matter how noble the purposes it serves. It is akin to the calumny used by inquisitors during the middle ages designed to extract confessions from politically incorrect remnant Christians, who would ultimately be brutally killed anyway. No one wants to be lied to.

Thank you, exhorters, for helping us all with your encouragement. Thank you for lifting us out of the pit of despair, when we are down. Thank you for reminding us of God’s promises, when we fall into our man made hell holes. Will you please guard your heart against the plague of your dark side? Will you guard against the devil’s unholy triunity of flattery, seduction and manipulation. Will you try not to exercise yourself beyond the gift God has given you, just because it is in the power of your hand? There is a message to you found in all those uncomfortable moments, when others expose their shortcomings. That message is: keep on encouraging. Judge righteous judgment. Do not flatter. Do not seduce. Do not manipulate. Do not gossip. Do not show favoritism. Do not deny and discredit. Keep the heart of the publican, and do not justify yourself against another’s gross misbehavior. "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer" (Rom 12:12). "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (v. 21).

We love the light you shine into our lives. May God give you grace to rise above the iniquity of flattery, seduction and manipulation, three words for exhorters, that we may all experience the sincere praise and encouragement God gives us all, through your wonderful gift of the exhorter, that ultimately God himself may receive all our praise!

“And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (II Peter 2:2-3).
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