Drugs and Doctrine
On American television there is a commercial advertisement that is representative of a growing number of such commercials. The camera pans several people doing different, ordinary things, such as walking, talking on the phone, or simply standing. Then the product being advertised is named and appears in writing on the television screen: Valtrex. The announcer tells the audience to ask their doctors if it is right for them. Thus ends the commercial. There is not the slightest indication of what the product does. One presumes it is some sort of medicine. In other such commercials the scant information about the purpose of the pills is augmented by a plethora of alarming side effects that should make any reasonable person conclude that the disease is surely better than the cure.
Why do I share this observation with you? It is because these interestingly allusive commercials, by their very existence, reveal that people in our culture have a strong penchant for seeking, finding, and procuring what they want. Evidently, the drug companies are willing to spend millions of dollars on such commercials because no amount of dire warning of side effects and lack of information contained in the commercials will stop people from investigating and buying the product.
In contrast to the tenacious determination of millions of consumers, putting themselves to whatever trouble it takes to have their drugs, we are told that the doctrine of the gospel must be fashioned into forms ever more palatable to our generation. Our failure so to fashion the gospel accounts, it is insisted, accounts for the lack of response to the good news in our day. Apparently, drug dealers (legal and illegal) can bank on their consumers being savvy enough to get the most fleeting and obscure message about their products, while doctrine teachers are told that they must treat their hearers as though they were imbeciles.
The tragedy about this phenomenon is that far too many church leaders refuse to believe that the failure, on the part of the masses, to accept the gospel, results from their aversion to it, not their lack of understanding of its message. Psalm 2 informs us that people naturally despise the Lord and His anointed. Paul tells us that the gospel is a stumbling block and foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). Yet, in the face of such adamant hatred of and opposition to the Lord of glory, many Christian leaders treat the matter as though the rejecting hordes were basically beautiful people who would embrace the Savior if He were just pitched softly and enticingly enough.
It cannot be denied that many people do respond to the softly pitched Jesus. But the vital question is whether such a Jesus is genuine or counterfeit. I recall not long ago discussing with another pastor the so-called incorporation programs used in his rather large church. He shamelessly declared to me that he knew all such programs were but lures to entice people into the church. Once they were there, he asserted, they would hear the gospel and be converted.
I will not deny that the brother in question witnessed conversions in his church. However, I asked him if any of those purportedly converted ever grew in discipleship to the point where they no longer required the lures. Honestly, he answered that he could not think of any. That by which we catch people must be that by which we keep them. Thus, the Church in our day is being built up with vast amounts of wood, hay, and stubble; goats are being herded in amongst the sheep; and tares are being planted amidst the wheat. Meanwhile the sheep are being starved spiritually, as brief and superficial sermonettes are served up amidst a mountain of musical and theatrical chaff because the goats demand such fare.
In stark contrast to all of the tweaking, embellishing, sentimentalizing, commercializing, and cultural jargonizing of Christ and His gospel taking place in many churches today, the Apostle Paul declared that he was not ashamed of the gospel, and that as he labored to preach it faithfully he rightly had confidence that it would have power to convict sinners, to break their stubborn pride; and to convert them to the Savior (Rom. 1:16). Thankfully, there still are, in our day, pastors who are committed to a similar ministry of the Word. Their churches tend to be few in number and small in terms of their membership. Yet they stand against the tide of those rushing to tickle the itching ears of the masses demanding a gospel shorn of sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Such pastors are few, but fit to be seeds of truth and love, planted by the Lord, as they endure countless deaths, that they might serve to produce a crop of true saints, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and not for the sham that litters the ecclesiastical scene in our day.
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