Cowards in Church Pulpits
- Summary: Listed below are some sermon themes that are missing from most American church pulpits. Efforts to be market-driven and the desire to please man have reduced many sermons to the level of “What will keep the people happy and coming to church?” By contrast, take a look at some of what Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostles were not afraid to preach.
• “Stop sinning!” — Jesus, John 5:14
• “Flee fornication” — the apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:18, KJV
• “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” — Hebrews 13:4
• “If you owe taxes, pay taxes” — the apostle Paul, Romans 13:7
• “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” — the apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:9b-10
• “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.” — the apostle Paul, Galatians 5:24, Amplified
• “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” — Jesus, Matthew 5:28
• “…all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” — the apostle John, Revelation 21:8
• “Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” — the apostle Paul, Romans 1:26b-27
• “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery…” — the apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:18
• “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth…” — the apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:29, Amplified
Now I realize that these topics are not the only truths preached and taught in the Scriptures. But they definitely are preached and taught in the New Testament, along with many other great truths such as grace, salvation in Jesus Christ, the love of God, and much more.
In many portions of American Christianity, the topics I have quoted above from the Bible are rarely if ever preached by church pastors from the pulpit. Is that due to the fear of man? a desire to please the hearers? cowardly preachers afraid of offending people? misguided pastoral attempts to speak only uplifting things? I leave that to your judgment. I can’t speak for other preachers. However, all of us can look to the example of preachers quoted in the New Testament. Let’s look at some. You’ll notice I said “…in the New Testament.” I have deliberately quoted the challenging verses above from the New Testament, to head off the oft-quoted excuse for carnal living — “I’m not under the law, but under grace.”
2 Timothy 4:2-3 Preach the word…  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
- • The inspired writer 20 centuries ago foretold something that we are certainly seeing happen in our day — that is, “to suit their own desires … [people] will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” They will not be receptive to sound doctrine. And part of the sound doctrine that they will not put up with is the Scriptures’ consistent call to repent, change our ways, and walk a holy walk.
- • The solution? The apostle’s command to Timothy and to all preachers is: “Preach the Word.” Don't shirk your pastoral responsibilities. Don’t preach what people with itching ears want to hear to suit their own desires. Rather, preach the uncompromised truths of God’s Word, the Bible.
2 Peter 2:5 …Noah, a preacher of righteousness…
- • That’s what we still need today, thousands of years after Noah. We need church pulpits filled with preachers of righteousness, who are not faint of heart and intimidated by man’s opinions and are not snared by the fear of man.
- • We need pastors and evangelists (and indeed all believers) preaching “repentance and remission of sins” (Luke 24:47) and reminding us of Jesus’ words: “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3,5).
- • We need Christian leaders willing to be faithful to Scripture, rather than to spout non-biblical excuses for unholiness such as: “That’s OK, God understands” or “Grace covers all sins” (conveniently omitting the fact that repentance and changed conduct are expected by God).
Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…”
- • In the very beginning of their public ministries, both Jesus and John the Baptist did not hold back from preaching the theme of repentance. Likewise, in his first post-Pentecost sermon, the apostle Peter replied to the people’s “What shall we do?” with the same command: “Repent…”
- • Jesus and His followers did not try to ease people comfortably into the kingdom of God. No! Each of them, in various ways of saying it, emphasized the truthful necessity that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). I am a retired pastor and still an active bible teacher. I will fail God and the people terribly if I just encourage a non-challenging, repentance-ignoring, sin-tolerating “Christianity.”
- • To all my fellow preachers, teachers, evangelists, elders, and other sharers of God’s Word — don't shirk your God-given charge to “Preach the Word!” The whole word, not just the comfortable parts of it. Rather, like the great apostle Paul, let us “not shrink from declaring … the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, ESV). And that includes His call to holy living — We are “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
- • I am eternally thankful for the grace of God that has brought me salvation, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. But I learned long ago that grace is not a license for loose living or an excuse to continue in carnality. No! Rather, grace goes on to “teach us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness…”
- • This is part of the Gospel message of the grace of our Lord. We not only are saved by His grace, we are also enabled by His grace to increasingly enter into a walk of holiness befitting our remarkable position as born-again sons and daughters of God Almighty, who cries out to us, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). A prayer in closing: Lord, let this message of repentance unto holy living be increasingly preached from the pulpits of our land today.
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by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.