Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Preach the word

2 Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote before he was martyred for his faith. We often assume the last words a person speaks are important and deserves special consideration. It's safe to assume that Paul wanted to convey his deepest desires in his final letter to young Timothy.

One of the things he exhorts Timothy to do is to preach the word. He goes on to explain that the time will come when people will not want to hear sound doctrine but will prefer to hear sermons that are pleasing to hear and not challenging to their sinful lifestyles. Paul's warning was not only for Timothy in his time but also should challenge those of us called to preach the Gospel today.

We live in a very diverse, pluralistic society that has rejected absolute truth and absolute morals. All religions are considered equal, and morality is left up to each individual to decide for himself or herself what's right and wrong. Of course, we can only decide right and wrong for ourselves. It would be intolerant for us to presume to tell others what's right and wrong for them. The last thing people want today is to hear sound doctrine that begins with "The Bible says...." And yet, this is exactly what we've been called to preach.

This rejection of sound doctrine isn't limited to just those outside the church. Many sitting in our churches don't want to hear sound doctrine either.

Several years ago a retired pastor and his wife began visiting our church. They lived about an hour away so they only came 3-4 times a year. One Sunday he seemed a little upset after the service but didn't say anything. After he walked out, his wife explained that he didn't like sermons about the blood of Christ. He didn't feel it was necessary to talk about such things in church!

  • Hebrews 5:9 tells us that we have been justified by His blood.
  • Ephesians 1: 7 - "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."
  • 1 Peter 1: 18-19 reminds us that we were not redeemed with corruptible things but with the precious blood of Christ.
I could go on, but there are numerous verses that tell us that we have forgiveness of our sins because of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. How do we preach the Gospel and leave out that important part? Even more, why would we want to? To appease people who find such talk uncomfortable? People need to know the price that was paid that would make it possible for them to have a relationship with God. They need to know just how horrible their sins are that such a price was necessary.

Our job as preachers is not to preach a watered-down Gospel that will make people feel good. Our responsibility is to preach the word, not to beat people up, but to give them hope and to point them to a God who loves them.

I came to Christ because I had people who loved me enough to point out the poor choices I was making in my life and who showed me what God had done to offer me forgiveness and a new life. They didn't sugarcoat the Gospel but spoke the truth in love. Because of them I came to understand that God loved me just as I was but loved me too much to leave me there. But, the choice was mine as to whether or not to accept his offer of a new life. This is the message that our world needs to hear today, and they will only hear it if we are not afraid to preach the word.

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