Grace For The Journey
I have had a heavy and grieved heart recently. It is not because of any personal or immediate family issue or church family crisis. My heart is grieved because many pastors and churches are making decisions that put them in a condition that the Bible describes in the last day, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first” … “having a form of godliness but denying its power” … “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 timothy 3:5,7). I have observed this heartbreaking prophecy fulfilled on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on the internet – watching in amazement and sadness as historically solid denominations caved in the face of social pressures brought on by the media and a fresh wave of ungodly boldness that has swept the planet.
In the face of all of this, however, I have been grateful to be a part of a group of churches and pastors called Southern Baptist; and blessed to know that I am a part of the remnant that has not figuratively bowed before Baal and the world.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, an act the Bible plainly and uncompromisingly describes as contrary to God’s will and plan, I was heartbroken as I witnessed many once mainline denomination pastors and churches softening and altering their stance on this lifestyle.
Rather than reading Facebook posts denouncing this sin and defining it for what it truly is, my newsfeed was inundated with “Let’s not forget that we’re all sinners…” “Let’s not be critical about this sin, until we’ve gotten the mote out of our own eye” … and, “Who are we to judge?”
To be fair, there were and remain many who have remained faithful to God and His Word, but sadly, at a time when God’s people should have been yelling at the top of their lungs that a major injustice and abomination had been wrought upon this land, many of His ministers – or at least many who claim to be His ministers – were either silent or so wishy-washy that they would have done less harm had they been silent.
Yes, it is true that God can save the lowest of sinners… sinners like you and me, who all of us can say, “of whom I am chief.” Yes, it is true that the church has an obligation to lovingly reach sinners with the truths of salvation.
However . . .
Far too many preachers
Have become obsessed
With the idea of “reaching them”
That they have failed to recognize
That our primary task as men of God
In the final days is simply
To be found faithful to the Word –
Not be found successful in reaching the multitudes
Or changing a culture.
We know this, because the Bible plainly show this to be the case:
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul outlines how perilous the last days will be, describing a world that is full of religion, yet reprobate concerning the faith:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away… Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth… men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith…” – 2 Timothy 3.5, 7, 8b,
And what are we supposed to do in the midst of this wicked and corrupt generation? Are we to replace traditional sermons with gentle talks that make the listener feel good and happy? Are we to replace our pulpits with the trendiest new fad that will attract the lost? Are we to adapt our sermons so that we do not mention sin in hopes of appearing less “preachy?”
No! Absolutely Not.
We as preachers
To do one thing:
“Preach the Word…”
Even in modern-day 2019, God’s Word offers one avenue for “reaching them,” – preach the Word! And the Bible teaches that this is not just God’s desire for the preacher, it was the normal conduct of His disciples … in Acts 5:42 the Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Even in a college town. Even in atheistic Europe and secular America. Even in a Gospel-saturated community in the buckle of the Bible belt – it makes no difference when or where . . . we have been commanded to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
This single act is essential
To the success of our faith,
And is the bedrock of Christianity,
For, without the preaching of the cross,
The Gospel message is without
“The power of God.” (Romans 1:16)
The Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Not only does Paul command preachers to preach to the very end, but he also details exactly how we are to preach: “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4.2)
Interestingly, at a time when so many are watering-down their messages in hopes of being more effective and not offending, Paul, the most successful preacher in human history outside of Jesus, commanded that two-thirds of our preaching be what the world would consider negative: “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.”
It is important to note that in the midst of our so-called “negative preaching,” the Bible tells us there is to be a “long-suffering.” This “long-suffering” is defined and pictured in Jude 22-23, where the Bible says, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” This “long-suffering” involves a tenacious, enduring love and compassion; a brokenness, a Christ-like passion that is burning inside of our hearts as we go about reproving and rebuking, fearfully and compassionately wrestling with the powers of Hell for the souls of our fellow man.
At the core of any preacher’s very existence, should be a jealous zeal – not to have the largest congregation in town, not to be acceptable in the eyes of the world, not even to reach sinners, but to be found faithful to God, His Word, and the doctrines of our faith.
In our personal living
And in our public ministry
Should be the obsession
Of any man who claims
To be a minister of the truth.
The Bible says in Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine. both to exhort and to convince those who contradict.”
In essence . . .
You’re not going to win the lost by tickling their ears,
But rather by being different –
By trumpeting the truth through sound doctrine!
The Bible says in Titus 2:1, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.”
And in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 the Bible says, “Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
Sound doctrine is only obtained through the Bible – thus when it comes to church growth, pastors would do themselves and their congregations much service by returning to the Book that governs the church, rather than the latest best-seller written by a man. We are reminded of that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good works.”
The problem is this – for too many years, many pastors have been walking a tightrope between a cavern with their parishioners and communities on one side and “the holy Scriptures” on the other side.
It is because of this that many preachers seem to be talking out both sides of their mouths when it comes to an current issues that are so cut-and-dry as far as the Bible is concerned . . . they’re trying not to appear offensive to their carnal and unsaved communities and Sunday-morning-only visitors, while at the same time fearful of alienating fellow church members and pastors.
In the end,
Any such preacher looks like
A fool to both audiences
And is less effective
Than that person who has resolved
To remain a gospel and Bible preacher,
Regardless of societal norms
Or the laws of men.
The bottom line is this . . .
As we near the return of Jesus Christ,
Rather than being a church and a people
Whom the lost world is attracted to and desirous to be like,
The scriptural and successful churches will be those
That are loathed and disdained by their culture.
To put it simply . . .
The churches that obey and please God
Will be those that are seeking
To stand out from their culture,
Not blend in with their culture:
The Bible says in in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
And in Mark 13:13, the Bible says “And you shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake…”
Rather than seek to be a church
That is “relative” in this generation,
We should seek to be a church
That is resolute;
Resolute to remain faithful
To the Bible
No matter what the price.
Let me leave you with an interesting observation . . . One thing I have noticed that is happening today is that the churches that have remained faithful and resolute to God’s Word are doing anything but struggling – people are getting real help – they’re getting eternal help and they just can’t keep from telling their neighbors!
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”