I admit to being a biased old man of 75, and conservative in most of my views. Having set the stage thus, I want to comment about all “the feel good” sermonizing that is apparent in many televised mega-church “productions.” Moreover, that comfortable style of service is evident in many churches across our nation, and even in many, both large and small, here in San Antonio, Texas, where I have lived for decades.
It appears obvious that some ministers are trying to present themselves as politically correct and often sidestep some problems that face mankind, when they should be addressing those concerns. I want to make it clear, however, that I recognize the fact that there are numerous ministers who are true to the Word, who indeed preach the Gospel in season and out of season.
And I hasten to acknowledge that it is not ministers alone who are guilty. Many Christians (loyal and faithful members of churches with sound doctrine) and lay speakers like me, who do not like to offend, would rather not confront some issues. Yet, when we fail to chastise where reproof is needed, we appear to offer acceptance to what used to be soundly rebuffed. That should not be the case—especially when one considers the whole Word, as given by our Father in Heaven.
We all know that God is a God of love, but we sometimes forget that God is also a God of wrath. He metes out justice and punishment as surely as He loves us to Heaven through His Son Jesus.
Jonathan Edwards, the Colonial theologian of mid-1700s New England, did not shy away from preaching condemnation for those who lived a sinful, godless life. Note this passage from his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:”
“Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf….” We are told that some members of the congregation of his church, as they sat under the preaching of this mighty sermon, fell to their knees in repentance, and cried out, even screaming for God to save them from the bottomless pit. So strong was this sermon, so the story goes, that many actually passed out under the stress of emotion, as they envisioned what lay ahead for unrepentant souls (including themselves).
Today’s society, with its fringes and subcultures, can—and often does—destroy what generations of moral conduct has accomplished. Even our organized churches are falling prey to the disorder of the universe—evil abounds, and, in many instances, remains unchecked. Until mankind returns to the God of our fathers and reverences Him and His rules of deportment, there will never be the utopian dream of tranquility about which we’re studied and upon which we’ve placed our dreams.
With a lessening of moral constraint and an ever-growing acceptance of whatever is the “catch-cause” of the day, we find ourselves enmeshed into what once we disdained, disowned, and dishonored. Ultimately, the hope on which we’ve built our trust will fade into oblivion. Indeed, God is a God of love first (as rightly stressed), but He is also a God of wrath. Grace is sufficient, yes; and while it may be “greater than all our sins,” grace cannot protect us from an angry God. We simply have to check ourselves, our nation, our country, and our world. We have to refrain from that which is sinful, that which is dishonorable in the face of almighty God. No, we should not judge; but we should see sin for what it is, and we should flee from it—and we should preach against it, in speech and in action.
I am not certain that we need to return to the fiery preaching of Jonathan Edwards, where congregants were scared almost literally to death; but we do need to return to the courage of identifying sin for what it is—and to recognize its consequences. Further, I believe we should preach the whole Word of God and not soft-pedal the truth—the truth that there is a price that must be paid for our violations of God’s directives.
Certainly, we find salvation through our Lord Jesus, as we receive Him as our personal Savior, through His shed blood and Resurrection, and as we draw close to Him and ask Him to come into our hearts and save us from condemnation. This He will certainly do; and as much as one may dislike the bluntness of it, He will also cast us into Hell, if we remain heedless and unmindful of His teachings. We simply must hold on to our faith, and flee from sin.
Remember, the Bible teaches that God is not slack concerning His promises. He promises love, yes; He promises many wonderful things for us, according to His riches in Heaven; but He also promises everlasting condemnation for those who reject His Son. Ministers and laypersons alike should preach—and live—the whole Word of God. In so doing, we have much to gain and little, if anything, to lose.
Let us all take heed: Our God is a God of Justice!