Today I was looking for something to listen to and ran across a recording of a sermon preached by Billy Graham over fifty years ago. While I was listening it struck me that if he were to preach that way in most mainline churches today he would most likely be asked to never come back.
He was preaching on sin and God's judgement, but it wasn't the "You're going to Hell in a hand basket, you filthy sinful sinning sinner!" type of preaching. It was strange really. It was just straight forward speaking about what the Bible says, nothing more and nothing less. But it had punch, and to my modern ears I kept catching myself flinching.
I found myself asking the question, "What is happening to us?" I have watched as one friend after another has started preaching a gospel that is so toned down and politically correct it is almost as if they are constantly apologizing for God, the bible and the Church. A constant walking on egg shells with an occasional exclamation "Oops, I'm sorry" whenever the slightest crack should sound. Is this what Jesus really wanted?
I'm not all about hating on people or screaming in their faces. Far from it. I hate confrontation just as much as the next person, but I am all about hearing the truth. I don't like people beating around the bush. Just say what you need to say and get it over with. I'm the type of person that if I were told I needed major surgery that was lifesaving but would be painful and potentially deadly and that I had a choice between having it right now or next month, I would jump on the table and tell the doctor to start cutting. If the truth is going to hurt I might as well have it hurt now rather than later. But that is just me and not everyone is like me (thank you Father!).
But I really don't see a lot of dancing around the truth in the Scripture. Sure, what we are told is very condensed so we aren't really seeing the full picture, but I do get the general sense from reading the bible that God was all about full disclosure when it came to what was good and what was bad and their related consequences.
So why do we do what we do? I think it has to do with fear mostly. We are, like most humans, afraid of rejection. For all our toughness and the perpetual stiff upper lip we like to present to people, we really don't like it when people hate us for what we believe. So we either:
1. Avoid telling the truth.
2. Water the truth down.
3. Apologize for the truth, or
4. Alter the truth or our perception of the truth to make it sound more like something other than what it is.
We've gotten so good at this that we don't even know we are doing it at times. We make really great arguments why we do what we do, but in the end the results speak for themselves. Everyone likes us and very few people, if any, find us repulsive for what we say or how we live.
The bible tells us "All those who live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution". And Jesus said, "If they hated me they will hate you too." Is this what we see? Sure, we aren't suppose to go out looking for a fight, but that isn't what is being said in the bible and it certainly isn't what I am saying here. I believe the message from Jesus is, "If you do what I did you will suffer what I suffered". But all I hear are the crickets and an occasional nod from the ranks of unbelievers that says, "That boy is one of us". Ouch!
So Bill's sermon really keyed me up. Not to start preaching with a southern drawl, but to look to the Scriptures and get on my knees and ask Jesus, "What do you want me to say and how do you want me to live?" Jesus once said, "Whatever I see my Father in heaven doing, that is what I do". That is what I want to be able to say. Whatever I see my Father doing, that is what I'm doing. So help me God!