Aug 6 10

The Reproach of the Cross

vmsmith

This week we continue our study of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” I am acutely aware that most people are alarmingly unaware of the insidious danger lurking in the pulpits of America’s churches. The devil is such a deceitful mastermind that those who attempt to expose his preachers are the ones shunned and branded as the real threats to the gospel of Christ. Most people in Christian churches know so little about the Bible that they haven’t a clue as to what is truth and what is not. They have no way to discern the false from the true because the Bible is the only place this information is found.

The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church what would happen if there weren’t strong leaders in the church sticking close to the word of God and using it skillfully. The result is people that are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). The false preacher perpetuates himself by abandoning scripture and replacing it with personal anecdotes, inane object lessons, self-help psychology, and multitudes of worldly wisdom. He is perpetuated because the more people are kept in the dark the more darkness seems to be natural and right. And why wouldn’t it? Jesus said people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Preaching that is not sin-exposing and spiritually enlightening is tailor-made to please the crowd and help the preacher keep his job. The people become as spiritually weak as the pastor and are as indifferent to the Word as he is. Preaching that constantly deals with self esteem and meeting every felt need never impresses people that worship is for the glory of God. Thus they go to church first for them and not for God.

The message preached by Jesus and the apostles was not tailored to be a crowd pleaser. Jesus was not an entertainer. He was not the emcee of “The Gospel Show.” He didn’t promise prizes for sowing “seed faith money.” He guaranteed that a life of commitment to Him would cause His followers to be “hated of all men” (Matt. 10:22). The apostles learned this lesson well because all of them were martyred for their faith. John was the only exception and he was exiled to a rocky barren island after being boiled in oil.

We do not seek to be offensive with our preaching; we don’t have to. The preaching of the cross is naturally offensive. It is made to move people out of their comfort zones not to help them settle in. Those that are convicted of their sins, repent, and turn to Christ, are no longer offended by the cross. They take up its reproach and bear it gladly for God’s glory (1 Pet. 4:13-14).

Pastor V. Mark Smith