The Character of a Good Exhorter
The Character of a Good Exhorter
Drawing upon the insights of Luke 6:39-42 and 1 John 1:7-10, the following sermon excerpt from "Running The Race Together Part 2" offers a description of a good exhorter:
A good exhorter is humble: he knows that he, of all people, is a great sinner who is guilty of all kinds of sins. He is not impressed with himself. He knows that if he had been left to himself, he would have been profoundly unable to do spiritual good to anyone else. He knows that sin wasn’t just something that he dealt with twenty years ago, but that it is also something that he dealt with twenty minutes ago, and he will be dealing with it again this evening. He knows that if the Lord’s grace was taken away from him, he would quickly descend into a world of sin. He agrees with the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.”
A good exhorter is not only humble, but also grateful: he knows that he is forgiven and cleansed on account of one thing and one thing only – the precious blood of Christ, shed for him on the cross. He has absolutely nothing to be proud of, and he isn’t. He stands in awe of God’s grace. He is also grateful because he knows that even the ability of taking the log out of his own eye is a gift of grace. We really are called to slay sin, and Romans 8 teaches us that we do this “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13). The Holy Spirit changed his heart decisively in regeneration, continues to renew and transform his heart day by day, and empowers him to put away sin and pursue a holy life.
A good exhorter, precisely because he is humble and grateful, is a gracious exhorter. Precisely because he knows what a great sinner he is, and how God’s grace is the sole cause of his ongoing transformation, he doesn’t look down on you and isn’t interested in scoring points against you. But he is interested in helping you: a good exhorter really wants to help you to keep running and progressing on the path of holiness. And, knowing how dependent he is on God’s grace, he’s happy to have you return the favor. A good exhorter is humble and gracious.
Further, precisely because he knows that Christ is his only hope, a good exhorter points you to Jesus, and to the cross, and to the promise of the gospel, and to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and to all the wisdom of Holy Scripture. He doesn’t treat you like his own personal project. He knows that you are God’s project, and he quite likes it that way. A good exhorter knows that if he managed to fix you up, it would all come tumbling down next week. So, good exhorters want to be – as Paul Tripp’s book title puts it – “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands’. Good exhorters gladly take the words of Paul upon their own lips: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) Good exhorters regard themselves as your humble servant sent by God to help you, and their message to you is not do-it-yourself religion. Whatever the particular issue may be, they encourage you to look at Jesus and lean into His grace and listen to His Word and let His Holy Spirit produce growth in your life.