“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
(I Corinthians 14:8)
Years ago I was speaking at a church conference on pastoral counseling, going over some of what I consider the basics, one of which is clarity.
I mentioned the need to call sin what it is, otherwise we’ll be doing a disservice to people coming for truth and direction. At that point a young man raised his hand and corrected me, telling me that his pastor had a better approach, which was to “let God be God.”
I bit my tongue, tempted to say that I had no idea God needed my permission to be Himself. Instead I asked him what he meant.
“Well”, he continued, “when I was in a live in relationship with my girlfriend, I talked to my pastor about it and he just listened. He didn’t say whether it was right or wrong, he was just there as my friend. He let the Holy Spirit guide me as to whether or not she and I should live together.”
After my initial shock at such an approach, I reminded the young man that if the work of the ministry meant nothing more than waiting for the Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, there’d be no need for evangelists, pastors, teachers or elders. Why even bother coming to church, for that matter? We could all just wait for guidance without having to bother with each other.
That was more than two decades ago, when ambiguity in the pulpit was fairly rare. Not so today. There’s a trend towards vagueness that’s accelerating, strengthened by some Christian authors, pastors, and ministry leaders who’ve replaced “Thus Saith the Lord” with “Whatever Works for You.” It seems that vague is in vogue, particularly when it comes to four essentials of the faith:
The exclusivity of Jesus Christ
I’ve noticed lately that when some leaders are interviewed on secular talk shows, and are asked if Jesus is really the only way to God, they seem to dance around the topic instead of providing a clear response.
I get that, to a point – who after all, wants to come across as an ogre telling everyone they’re gonna burn if they don’t receive Christ? But facts are facts, and if He Himself said no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6) then we can hardly say we’re following Him if we hedge on that
The sinful nature of man
Sin itself is a word inviting derision these days, so applying it to our very nature won’t win a guy any popularity contests. But one of the tenants of the good news is that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) meaning everyone has fallen short of God’s perfection. Otherwise there’s no need for salvation, making the clear explanation of sin an imperative, not an option. Telling people how wonderful they are flatters, but it hardly saves.
The existence of hell
We should be especially loathe deny the existence of a place spoken of so specifically and graphically by Christ Himself. (Matthew 18:8-9)
We also don’t want to “lead” with the topic, as though we’re trying to scare people into redemption. But we can no more deny the existnec of hell than we can the existence of heaven.
Some say that it’s sadistic to talk about such things. Others have actually suggested that, when we warn unbelievers about hell, we must be somehow wanting them to go there. (Which makes no more sense than saying if you warn someone they’re about to drive into a ditch, you must somehow have wanted them to)
This is, to be sure, one of the most if not the most unattractive truths of the Bible, and it’s a subject I hate, as the very idea of eternal punishment
All the more reason, then, to be clear about it in hopes of preventing as many as possible from experiencing it.
The definition of the family
When Jesus said that God’s intention for marriage was that it be monogamous, permanent, independent and heterosexual (Matthew 19:4-6) it’s hard to miss what He meant.
Yet today, many would have us believe that it’s judgmental and hurtful to clarify the Creator’s intention for, and definition of, the family. In fact, watch the trends and I think you’ll agree that this is fast becoming Christianity’s most controversial, divisive doctrine. But what God has ordained, let’s not shy away from. Not, at any rate, if we’re professing faithfulness to him despite cultural shifts and changes.
You know, if you heard Peter, Paul, John or James preaching in the early Church days, you might not have liked what they said. Perhaps you’d have disagreed with what they said. But one thing’s certain: You’d have known what they said. You would have walked away with clear directions and concepts that you could either ignore or embrace, but you sure wouldn’t have had to wonder what they were.
May that be said of today’s Church, its leaders, and its members. Today and always.