God's Word Must Be Obeyed and Heard
INTERESTING FACTS : Charles Thomson, SECRETARY OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; DESIGNER OF THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES; ALONG WITH JOHN HANCOCK, THOMSON WAS ONE OF ONLY TWO FOUNDERS TO SIGN THE INITIAL DRAFT OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE APPROVED BY CONGRESS
"I am a Christian. I believe only in the Scriptures, and in Jesus Christ my Savior."
Daily Reading : Ezekiel 28 - 30; 31 - 33; 34 - 36
TEXT : Eze 33:30 Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 33:31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 33:32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. 33:33 And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
THEME : PREACHING & PREACHERS
The 33rd chapter of Ezekiel grants a unique insight into the nature of a [true] man of God or preacher. If you notice, God places responsibility to warn the unrighteous among the professed people of God on the shoulders of the prophet [preacher]. This is a heavy burden and not easy to bear. Thus, you can understand why true prophets or preachers are reluctant to enter ministry. It is a duty not easy to execute. Speaking the truth of God's Word has its price.
In our age, ministers announce how they want their Church to be relevant. Usually this means [in practice] a compromise with the world or carnal Christians. In precept, it sounds appealing to speak of "reaching the world," stimulating the Church members, using clever inventions of men that move them to action. Today, there is no limit to the gimmicks employed - even when well intentioned, that ultimately abandons the dictates of Scripture. Yet, there is nothing more relevant than God's Word - unmolested by members of the clergy acting as editors who ignore the troublesome, bothersome, and ultimately "annoying" passages of the Bible to the members of the local Church who violate God and His commands.
In Bible colleges today, the faculty often feeds the aspiring candidate for the pastorate a continual diet of "successful" pastors and preachers, whose accomplishments are defined by their huge congregation, massive architectural edifice or "campus," and amplified anecdotes in their speeches of all "God" is doing. Whether using the "dressing to the nines" approach, or the "casual Friday" method, young, impressionable ministers become inured; believing success in ministry is measured by appearance, emotive and lighthearted messages, ever-increasing attendance, and entertainment.
The Rev. Archibald Brown [a student of Charles Haddon Spurgeon - recognized as one of the greatest preachers of the Church of Jesus Christ], addressed this subject in a message entitled - "Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats." His opening statements are worthy of a careful review.
"An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.
From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) That is clear enough So it would have been if He had added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.
Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers ... for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll."
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "GOD'S WORD MUST BE OBEYED AND HEARD"
Telling words indeed - "the concert has no martyrs." You would think Rev. Brown was preaching today rather than 150 years ago. Truthfully, the ministry of the LORD Jesus Christ has no place or need for entertainment from the pulpit. Church events - other than preaching the Word of God, have their place. Yet, as it pertains to the inspired record of the LORD God, preaching is anointing truth designed to convert people, disciple converts, and instruct the ignorant in what God requires in His Church. The pulpit is no place for actors, entertainers, or performers.
Ezekiel received a Word from the LORD concerning His preaching and prophesying. The LORD told Him - in essence, the people love to hear him speak, but they did not practice what they heard. He was like a skilled musician to them. They loved to hear his words, but not to do them. The fault was not with Ezekiel. He was a true man of God. Further, he did not draw huge crowds. Yet he was "relevant." The Gospel, pure and unadulterated is always relevant. The reason is God has not changed, Man has not changed, and the Devil has not changed. Therefore, the pure Word of God and preaching is the method and message of the living God.
However, preaching is no guarantee of the conversion of people. This is in the Hands of God. Further, the people of Judah though loving Ezekiel's "voice," did not obey the LORD. This proved to be disastrous in Judah for in time the Chaldeans killed and conquered them. Disobedience to God's Word has proven disastrous in every age when God's people do not do what He commands. Let us review again the words of Our LORD concerning obeying Him.
Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Mat 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock Mat 7:25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Mat 7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: Mat 7:27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. of Jesus.
Let us also look at the word of the Apostle James.
Jas 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. Jas 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not earers only, deceiving your own selves. Jas 1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: Jas 1:24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. Jas 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. Jas 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
For you the lesson is clear - obey Christ, not with mere words, but in your daily behavior. All else is vanity, conceit, pride, and pointless learning. Without obedience, faith is dead.
FEEDING SHEEP OR AMUSING GOATS
The mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired.
An evil resides in the professed camp of the Lord so gross in its impudence that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate evil for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." That is clear enough. So it would have been if He has added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Then again, "He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry." Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? "Ye are the salt," not sugar candy-something the world will spite out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead." He was in awful earnestness!
Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His mission, He would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear Him say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!" Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel amusement. Their message is, "Come out, keep out, keep clean out!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, "Lord grant Thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They "turned the world upside down." That is the difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.
Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to affect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.
Originally attributed to C H Spurgeon, this seems rather to be an edited version of a sermon by one of his students, Archibald G Brown. 'The Devil's Mission of Amusement', from which it has apparently been taken, was published in 1889.