Many years ago, God made a covenant with man and all the earth. God declared that He would never, again, destroy the world by water.
Genesis 9:12-17 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
Many times, as a late-afternoon summer storm passes, you can look to the sky and see the evidence of God’s covenant. You can see a rainbow in the sky. The rainbow is a beautiful sight to behold. Just after dark and drear of the storm passes, as the rain ceases, God paints a beautiful, colorful reminder in the sky that rain nor flood will ever again utterly destroy the earth. The rainbow should remind us of a time when sin ruled the earth. A time when the minds of men were on evil continually. The Word of God does not document what those sins were, and it really doesn’t matter what those sins were. Personally, I believe they were sins against their very flesh – they were seeking pleasure continually. Continue reading →
Often, when I post an article or speak, I am accused of using words which are decisive or offensive. I am told that I am being hateful, that my message would be better received if I did not use such words or if my message were not as strong. In their reply, these people often use words such as hateful or judgmental to describe me. Some attempt to encourage me to “speak the truth in love.” Using these words to describe me, and others who are outspoken, has become a tactic of those who have no defensible argument. It is not a tactic of encouragement. These words and responses are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate me, and others who are outspoken, when they have no legitimate argument. But what about the notion speaking the truth in love and is there ever a time when we should stand firm or use strong language in defending a position? Is there ever a case which demands language which some would consider offensive? Yes. There are times when taking a stand, using strong language and even being offensive is necessary.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Ephesians 4 gives us a clear picture of a Pastor addressing his church. In that picture, we see two things very clearly: speaking the truth and speaking in love.
Speaking the truth is clear. We have a message to deliver. That message is that the world is steeped in sin and sin has a penalty. Sometimes, that means that we must use words and descriptions which some find distasteful. Ultimately, no one wants to hear bad news. No one wants to be told they are a sinner. No one wants to be made uncomfortable. However, as Preachers, we are called to discomfort the sinner.
When I work as a Paramedic, I often work twenty-four hour shifts. Yes, there are times when I get to sleep. In fact, I take every opportunity I can to lay down and sleep. When a call for service comes, the dispatchers send a series of tones over the radio. The radio in our building hears those tones and, if they are for our unit, activates an alarm and turns on the lights in my bedroom. This alarm is very discomforting to me. Many times, it scares the living daylights out of me. It is not a pleasant sound and not a nice way to be awakened. I don’t like it! However, if that alarm were not loud and startling, I may not wake up. If I don’t respond, a life could be lost.
Just as that alarm is discomforting to me, just as it disrupts my plans to sleep, just as it scares me into acting, we as preachers must be discomforting. We must work very hard to speak in a way which startles our audience to think and to move. Our words must be emphatic, and passionate. Our speech must be strong enough to capture, even captivate the attention of those to whom we are speaking. Our words must startle the hearers and convict them, motivating them into action and hopefully moving the hearer toward a decision to serve Christ. To be strong enough to motivate some, others will be offended. In fact, The Bible clearly tells us that many will be offended by Biblical truth.
John 15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
As we deliver our message, we must remember that we are speaking for Christ. Because we are speaking for Christ, we will be hated as Christ was hated. Does this mean that we must temper our speech? No. When we speak for Christ, our words, rather the words of the Bible, will be offensive. The alarm in my bedroom, at work, is offensive to me, but it is also a call to action. It is there to motivate me to do something. In the case of that alarm, it is calling me to act in a rescue, perhaps to do something which may help or even save someone’s life. As preachers, we are also called to be an alarm, of sorts. We must be fervent in our message to the world as we sound a warning. Consider Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 33:1-6 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: (3) If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; (4) Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5) He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (6) But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.
In this passage, a watchman is set. That watchman has one job – to look for the enemy and sound a warning when the enemy is at hand. This warning is a warning that danger is at hand, it is a call to man the defenses. It is a call to battle. God using this analogy to give two clear warnings: First, a warning to the watchman. If the watchman should see danger approaching, and fail to sound the warning, the watchman is at fault. The blood of the people are on his hands. However, according to this passage, if the watchman sounds a clear and loud warning, and the people do not respond, the watchman has done is job and his hands are clean. The watchman’s warning must be clear and loud. It must startle and awaken the town. The sound of the trumpet must be loud, certain and some would even say abrasive.
Jeremiah 6:16-17 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (17) Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
The preacher is that watchman. As preachers, we are called to be a watchman. We are called to be that one who sounds a loud, clear and certain warning. If we should fail in that task, the blood of the people will be on our hands. Continue reading →