The goal of this week’s column is twofold. One, to convince preachers to preach something more than fuzzy-wuzzy, “God loves you sermons.” Two, to prevail upon people to attend churches that preach the truth and stomps on your toes from time to time.
The Bible speaks of a time when congregations will have “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). This itching ears statement means they will only listen to what they want to hear. An unpleasant message will have no place in the church.
Example — A man is having an affair. He keeps up appearances and continues to attend church with his family. One day the minister, while preaching the sermon, speaks briefly about the sin of adultery. Instead of coming to repentance, the man ceases to attend that church. He may quit church altogether or attend another, but he will not go back to hear uncomfortable sermons.
“Tell me what I want to hear and nothing that is uncomfortable” is the motto of the itching ear.
Many equate the power of God with miracles, such as healing and the speaking of tongues; God emphasizes His power elsewhere.
Romans 1:15-16 states, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
The gospel, through preaching, is the power of God. Being more specific on the subject, God 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.”
Do not get me wrong; there are times when a sermon should provide comfort and encouragement, but the main objective should be to change lives. When the Holy Spirit moves someone from death unto life, also known as salvation, a life is changed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
When Christians realize their sin and repent, God works. We then become capable of living the life God wants for us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Also, Hebrews 12:1 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, 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.”
This theme of preaching changing lives is so prominent in the Scriptures that Paul tells the young preacher Timothy to preach “to the subverting of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14).
The dictionary definition of subverting is “to overturn or overthrow from the foundation.”
“Shall humble themselves,” “turn from their wicked ways,” “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,” “the subverting of the hearers” — these phrases show us that sermons should be far more than “Jesus love you; have a great week!”
Today, many people do not want to hear the bad news, and worse yet, preachers refuse to preach it. With this “itching ears” philosophy, lives cannot change.
In many churches today, if sin is talked about at all, it is not called sin. It is a mistake or a bad choice. The problem with this terminology is that it is inaccurate. An example of a mistake is turning left instead of right while driving. Adultery, substance abuse, hatred, greed, theft, pride, laziness, disrespect to parents, lust, and the like are not mistakes or bad choices — they are sin.
These topics are uncomfortable, but change cannot come unless God addresses the uncomfortable.
Churches have even removed the thought of sin from their music. “Amazing Grace” and “Victory In Jesus” both contain the phrase “a wretch like me” in their first stanzas. Absent are songs about the blood (remember the preaching of the cross and the power of God?).
The result? Because of the removal of the power of God from the preaching and music, Churches have become entertainment centers instead of heart-changing, life-changing houses of God.
May the church get back the power of God — the preaching of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18).