13 Jun, 2011 A secure salvation and modern Church preaching – Part II
In Part I we discussed the necessity of good works to accompany salvation. While we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, we are saved for good works, and if the latter does not follow there is a strong voice in Scripture to indicate the insincerity of the origional faith-claim, and that a deception has therefore taken root in the heart. Faith without works is dead!
(A) Regarding Christ’s cut-throat teaching
Having discussed this, my question (and concern) is why many modern preachers are scared to just say this just as it is? Should we not warn those we lead of the things Jesus has said? Jesus’ teaching is extremely uncomfortable, and harsh. It is black and white. We must somehow reconcile with this if we are to be faithful preachers of the Word, and faithful Churches.
Consider teachings such as when Jesus said that ‘if we deny Him before men that He would do the same to us at the final judgment’; ‘if we do not forgive others He warns that this will nullify His forgiveness of our sins… He even said that if we do not give up everything we cannot be His disciples, and that rich people need to be genuinely ready to give away everything they own to follow Him if they are to be eternally saved (the clear implication being that the rich young man went to hell because of the idolatry reflected in his inability to do this). These are harsh messages, but are the Word of God, and therefore a necessary part of our preaching if we are to be faithful to the Word of God.
The challenge to the preacher
Regarding preachers Jesus said that if we put our hand to the plough and look back we are not fit for service in His Kingdom. Those who are in bondage to people-pleasing will thus make bad candidates for the pulpit, for God’s Word is unavoidably uncomfortable – sadly unlike many of our pulpits. But who is not prone to people-pleasing?
(B) The results of Jesus’ cut-throat teaching
Now lets briefly consider the results of Jesus’ preaching and teaching also, for Jesus’ teaching, rather than ultimately attracting the masses, often turned them away. Consider his teaching on ‘eating his body and blood’ (John 6) after which many stopped following HIm. Consider in Luke 9, where three stories are told of men who came to Jesus wanting to follow Him, the first being where Jesus responded ‘foxes have holes… but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head’. The clear implication is that these men did not end up following Jesus.
The fact is this – Jesus did not make it at all easy for those who wanted to follow Him to do so (unlike many of our gospel messages). Nor did He preach to win peoples favour. The abrasiveness of the sermon on the mount makes that clear enough. Jesus preached the truth (God’s Truth). This is what His allegiance was to – not the comfort of the people.
We find a similar scenario working itself out in Acts, where hard teaching likewise caused many to stop following the disciples. And yet in the following verses we note that, ironically, the number of disciples continued to increase rapidly.
The challenge to the preacher who wants a bigger Church
Jesus and the disciples did not preach to please their hearers ears – and yet God honoured their truthfulness, and the number of disciples grew constantly.
I wonder if we too often fall into this trap – unknowningly. Without realising it – because it is subtle – we pandering to the needs and desires of our congregations in our sermon preparation, rather than examining our hearts and truly searching the Scriptures that we would preach the whole counsel of God.
Toward a conclusion
I think there should be more fire in the preaching of today – and not in the sense of volume and mere outwardly measurable passion – but in the sense of confrontational truth, life changing conviction, and a passion that leads us to be ruined with regard to the things of this world.
We should teach our congregations on topics such as sin, judgment, the necessity of works, Christ’s return, and hell. Preachers rarely preach these topics today.
Scripture teaches that we teachers will be judged more strictly than others, of this we can be sure. The fear of God is needed in our preachers, for Jesus preached topics such as these. We can be certain of this truth – we will be called to account before God if we fail to preach what Jesus preached!
While we need wisdom in the way we communicate our message to non-adherants in a postmodern world, in our Churches I am convinced that we need more of the fear of God. If we are not convinced of the truth of our message (the gospel message correctly including four of the above mentioned five uncomfortable topics) we will not have the conviction needed to convince others of it either! Only a believing Church can make believers!
Consider that many in our congregations may actually be deceived into believing they are saved – thinking a prayer and a few religious acts is sufficient, but being unsubmitted to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives. Rather than always giving them false assurance of their ‘ever-secure salvations’, why not caution and warn them against the deceptions and dangers of unrepentant living. Indeed, if the love of God is in us at all, and if we believe the Bible at all, we must tell them such things. These are also the very things our Saviour saw fit to caution us of!
Worst case scenario
While we preach to comfort the struggling, it would be unwise to not consider those who may be in very real danger of compromised faith! If many from our congregations did end up in hell, and we had not warned them, we most certianly would be called to account for this by God!
The enemies of Jesus
Those Christ spoke most venniminaontly against were the religious teachers in His day, for they masked the truth of God to the people. If we do not teach the righteous requirements of God’s Word to the lazidaxical, Laodicean, comfort-filled Churches of our day we could well be guilty of doing the same!
The fear of the Lord
I do not think we should live in the fear of hell! But the phrase ‘the fear of the Lord’ certainly implies that we should live with a certain, and necessary, ‘fear’ of God – for He is a good God – that is the issue at hand. He is good, and therefore just. While our salvations are a free gift, they cost Him greatly, and they cost us everything!
As Paul said to Timothy – reflection well the correct attitude of the preacher: “Watch your life and doctrine closely… because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16).
May we each do our best, looking to God for strength and wisdom that we might somehow serve Him well.
With humility (knowing the finger of the Scriptures points as much at me as at anyone).
Possible Action Step:
When did you last preach on these uncomfortable topics?
4. The necessity of works
5. Christ’s return
Doing such will cause you to reflect upon a truly Biblical theology.
Doing such may actually lead to the salvation of some of your members.
Doing such will also serve to equip your members for outreach, for they will not have the conviction needed to share Christ with others until they actually believe the essentials of what the gospel is all about.