The United States is in big trouble. Our foreign policy is in shambles. There is geo-political instability all over the globe – China, Russia, the Middle East, Isis, Al Queda. Things on the home front continue to go from bad to worse – racial unrest, the embrace of same sex marriage and the disenfranchisement of any who stand against it, unprecedented unemployment numbers, illegitimate births, poverty, violence, abortion, and so many more problems. But these are issues ‘in the world’, and the world has always been the playground on which the devil and his minions ply their wickedness, perversion, and murder. As Jesus told us, ‘He is a liar from the beginning’ (John 8:44).
The real problem, my friends, is the lethargy, ambivalence, and cowardice of the church of Jesus. Many preachers seem to view their ministries as though they have booked a nice cruise vacation with their families. You know – you pay good money for the experience. Therefore you expect good service. You are at ease. It is all about kicking back and enjoying yourself, forgetting the cares of the world, focusing in on family time, enjoying the niceties of the cruise experience. Now there is nothing wrong, of course, with a nice vacation every now and then. We all need to slow down and enjoy time with our families.
But after the short respite it is time to get back to work. More specifically it is time to embrace the biblical language of war. We are to fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7). We are to realize that our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, against powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). We are to remember that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses, for destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4, 5).
The Apostle Peter says that judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). My complaint is not with the world. The world is simply being the world. My complaint is with the American church, more specifically the preachers in the American church. To be even more specific, my complaint is with evangelical and Reformed preachers in the American church. By definition every evangelical and Reformed preacher believes the Bible to be God’s word. No preacher in this camp denies the doctrine of sin, hell, and judgment. All will acknowledge Jesus as the only Saviour of sinners. All will seek to put forth the whole counsel of God in their sermons. It seems, however, that much of what passes for preaching is mere lip service to the Scriptures and the certain, terrifying, ominous threat of impending judgment on recalcitrant, unrepentant sinners. Many seem to teach sin, judgment, and hell, but apparently the message is not getting to the hearts of our people. Our churches have many who claim to be followers of Jesus but fornicate and commit adultery without any apparent guilt or desire to alter their ungodly behaviour, neglecting the clear teaching of Scripture to those who purport to be believers, ‘Marriage (can there be any doubt that the writer means between one man and one woman?) is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge’ (Heb. 13:4). As Paul challenged the moral and religious sinners of Rome, ‘. . . you who teach that one shall not steal, do you steal; you who preach that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery; you who abhor idols, do you rob temples; you who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?’ (Rom. 2:21-23) – we seem unwilling or incapable of driving home to our people that without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). He says to the Ephesian believers, ‘Know this for certain, no immoral or any impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words. For it is because of these that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 5:5, 6).
Concerning sin, it appears that many preachers pick and choose what sins they will address. Many will deal with the sins that even the world despises – pride, avarice, injustice, racism, genocide, human trafficking, and political corruption. These same preachers, however, often refuse to address the sins which older evangelical pastors regularly highlighted – homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and abortion. And even if the preachers highlight sin across the board, something is still missing, in many cases. We seem to think a mere mention of these sins is sufficient. Are we not at ease in Zion? Where is our hatred of sin? Where is the warning we must give baptized, professing Christians who persist to live in clear disobedience to the Law of God? ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor perverts, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 6:9, 10). Preacher, you must warn such people in your congregation – they face the judgment of God, no matter how long they have been a member of the church, no matter how much money they have given, no matter how long they have served as a church officer.
Then there is the issue of judgment. Wrath and indignation are upon the selfishly ambitious, those who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness. Tribulation and distress are upon every soul of man who does evil. God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom. 2:8, 9, 16). He will judge every careless word men shall speak (Matt. 12:36). He will judge every lawless deed, even the things he should have done but did not do (2 Cor. 5:10). All not washed by the expiating and propitiating blood of Jesus, all not clothed with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, upon their deaths, will be cast immediately and without reservation into hell (Mark 9:43). There they will suffer conscious, endless torment (Luke 16:23, 24). Their ears, which listened to evil words and damnable heresies, will forever hear the cry of the damned, begging for mercy, but none will come. Their eyes, which looked upon evil on this earth, will see unimaginable horror in hell. They will plead for mercy but none will come. Then on that day, the day of judgment, they will hear the most dreaded words imaginable, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41).
Brethren, we need to listen for the lamentable, unrelenting cries of the damned. We need to smell the sulphur in the lake of fire. We need to look, as it were, into the bowels of hell and never forget what we see. Those in the church, no matter what their profession of faith, who persist in intentional, flagrant disobedience to God are going to hell. You know people, as do I, who claim that God understands their fornication and adultery, that he is patient with them, that he forgives them, while they, nonetheless, continue unrepentantly in licentiousness. It is time to warn them to repent, to flee to Jesus. Until the church is serious about fighting our own sin, we have no grounds to warn the world of the same. They will not listen. They are emboldened by our lethargy, indifference, and licentiousness.
It is time unapologetically to preach sin, judgment, and eternal hellfire to everyone in the church. Then, and only then, will the good news of grace and mercy in Jesus make any sense at all. Preach the word.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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