Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Preaching is not a Popularity Contest!

Meditation for the week of  November 1, 2009

2 Timothy 4:2-3
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.

What are “itching ears?”   Itches are irritating, and we usually want to sooth the irritation.  Unfortunately, Biblical teaching is not always “soothing”.  Sometimes it is convicting.  None of the words used in connection with faithfully preaching the word in today’s verses would have to do with telling people what they want to hear.  If teaching is going to convince, rebuke and exhort, it is going to give people what they need.  It will not always give people what they want unless they want to know what God is saying.  Good teaching should not be a popularity contest.

The prophets of the old testament usually told people what they did not want to hear.  Many of them died for doing that.  Jeremiah ended up in a dungeon for being faithful to the Lord, but he preached that people needed to give themselves up to Babylon in order to live.  His message was considered to be treason.   Yet because He knew the plan of God, listening to Jeremiah was the only way to live and not die. 

Today, people go to church meetings for an hour or maybe two on Sunday morning and they listen to men preach to them who have been educated in today’s seminaries.  The preacher is hired and he must maintain the good will of the congregation in order to keep his job.  Many congregations want the Truth so this works for them, but it is a set up for disaster in many churches.  Many people are going to the “church of their choice” and are listening to those who tell them what they want to hear.  Preaching can end up being a popularity contest.  I have a few suggestions that will help us know if we should rely on a teacher:

Make sure you listen to someone who is clear about the new birth.  It is a must (John 3:7).  Must means must.  John 1:12-13 explains this.  You don’t grow into the new birth.  You should grow in your faith after being born again.  Paul often gave a version of his conversion story when he wrote, and I suspect he did this when he preached.  I would not want to listen to someone unless I was convinced that they had been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. 

Make sure that you listen to someone who has been baptized.  The word that was translated baptism in the Bible really should have been translated “immersed”.  Baptism is always an expression of one’s personal faith in the Lord Jesus.  Thus, it always occurs after salvation and not before.  Be careful of people who practice a form of baptism that doesn’t conform to Scripture.  Also, be careful of those for whom baptism is not important.  Baptism does not save, it is an expression of the faith of the saved.  But it is important.  If a person cannot follow the Lord on this basic issue, why would they be clear on the things that follow baptism?

Be careful of people who have turned their ministry into a money-making operation.  The Gospel is free (1st Corinthians 9:18, 2nd Corinthians 2:17).

Trust your instincts.  If you are really saved, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit who uses the Word of God to teach us.  If teaching that you hear seems seems wrong, don’t ignore that.  It may be that you have something to learn, but it also may mean that your teacher is just trying to make you feel good.  He or she may be trying to get you to follow him instead of encouraging you to follow the Lord. 

John writes in 1st John, to give us full joy (1 John 1:4).  He also writes to keep us from sinning (1 John 2:1) and he writes to give us the assurance that we are saved (1 John 5:13).  Good teaching still does these three things today. 

These are safeguards that will keep us from listening to those who are serving self rather than serving God.  We need to be careful that we aren’t just listening to those who tell us what we want to hear.  Preaching is not a popularity contest.

Bruce Collins

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