Thursday, April 22, 2010

Negative Preachers

Ezekiel 13.10& 16
Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:
To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD.

One ingredient missing in many pulpits is: Negativity. I was recently watching a “Glen Beck” episode and he had an open forum show. The people were asking Mr. Beck questions and making comments. One such comment from a lady in the audience that caught my attention was whether or not he was afraid of being “too negative.” Mr. Beck made one of his funny replies but then in a serious tone made no excuse for being “negative.” The implication of his response was that the times called for truth and if the truth was negative – so be it.
The day in which we live demands truth. And if that truth be negative we are derelict in our duty as ministers if we gloss over it and make light of it for fear of being labeled, “negative.” Such was the case of the false prophets of Ezekiel’s day. They scorned a message that emphasized God’s wrath. They mocked the tears and fearful strains of Ezekiel’s message – but history has proven Ezekiel correct. I have been reading The Log College by Archibald Alexander. Here is an account of the attitude and preaching style of Rev. John Tennent, during the First Great Awakening:

“…he was very awakening and terrible to
unbelievers in denouncing and describing with the most vehement pathos and awful solemnity the terrors of an offended Deity, the threats of a broken law, and the miseries of a sinful state. And this subject he insisted much upon, because he, with many others, found it the most effectual and successful means to alarm secure sinners.”

This kind of preaching has never been common but it is even less so today. We as preachers are subtly urged to be pleasant, jovial, engaging and helpful. We are “allowed” to take our conservative stand as long as it is in the appropriate way and manner. The message must be positive; negativity will drive people from Christ – so we are told. Yet, even a cursory investigation of the great awakenings and revivals of history reveal to us a completely opposite picture. It was not a light hearted casual manner that the Holy Spirit used to awaken the people; rather, it was a declaration of the glory & terror of the Living God that drove men to be healed through the balm of Calvary.
All true revivals have in them to some degree the fear of God’s wrath, judgment, justice and terror. Certainly our goal is not to leave the sinner in such a state of despair….perish the thought! Our goal is to bring men to Christ Jesus and see the grace of Christ applied to the wounded heart! But how can such hearts be healed that have never been wounded? How can men flee to Christ unless they are fleeing from hell? How can people truly recognize the error of their ways without being informed they are, in fact, in error? I was recently listening to a very popular Christian band. This particular song I was listening to was talking about a young lady that was pregnant out of wedlock and how that when she came to church she was looked down upon and treated unkindly. The song was chastising the Church to be more kind and forgiving and to share the love and forgiveness of Christ. My immediate thought is that this song was written by people that have no actual concept of what is going on at the front lines of Christianity. For every one Church that may treat a young lady in such an unkind way I could point out many more churches where a young lady pregnant out of wedlock could go and never feel the least bit of discomfort over her sin. No – I refuse the premise of the song….and the very premise of the modern Church thought along these lines. We are to be kind, forgiving and gracious. We are to help such a young lady. But sin is sin! And it is vital - scriptural - that such a young lady (or any sinner) be warned and brought to a place of humility and subjection before God. Notice how Samuel Blair recounts the attitude of those being touched by God during a revival:

“I had opportunity of speaking with a great many
of those who afforded such outward tokens of inward soul concern…..I found that
with by far the greater part their apparent concern in public was not a
transient qualm of conscience or merely a floating commotion of the affections;
but a rational fixed conviction of their dangerous perishing state.”

These are the words of a Godly man preaching during a time of great outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Yet today this kind of preaching and attitude is foreign. We have replaced the Awakening style and attitude of preaching with an attitude that is, jovial and light. But is the condition of the sinner and of our Nation one that calls for jovial and light? Ten thousand times no!
We need negative preachers because the truth we are facing in our nation today is negative. I know that is not the popular thing to say, and I know that I will be misunderstood by some and considered out of balance by others. But we need men of God who see the danger of the day; men who can see the Babylonians breaching the walls; men who can warn us to flee to God for He alone is our fortress and it is God alone whom we have grieved. We need a generation of preachers that will rise up and proclaim truth – even if it is negative.