When I was a young boy, I remember hearing the story about a farmer who had fallen on hard times. Times were so difficult that the farmer did not have enough money to buy oats for his mule. So, the farmer came up with a very creative idea and mingled a small amount of sawdust with the oats. He watched as the old mule ate with great delight. Noting that his mule could not tell the difference, the farmer began mingling more sawdust and using less oats. Again, he watched as the old mule ate with great delight. This continued until, finally, the farmer was feeding the old mule nothing but sawdust. The old mule lay down and became completely listless. Soon thereafter, the old mule died because it became satisfied with the wrong diet.
As Paul wrote to his young preacher friend Timothy, he wrote with a sense of urgent warning about what could be expected in the last days. Paul could see a day in which a steady diet of solid, doctrinal preaching would be replaced with myths, philosophies, opinions, and feelings. All of these would be substitutes that produce a passionless, powerless, and paralyzed church. Paul then presented his counsel in 2 Timothy 4: 1-2, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ…Preach the Word…” Sadly, that standard is changing and preaching the Gospel is not enough any longer. A church that does not offer a circus-type atmosphere filled with excitement, laughter, and food is led to believe it cannot compete with the world. But, in spite of all of the effort and expense to look appealing to the world, we are raising a generation on substitutes that are producing a faith that is lacking in substance. Ours is a society that only wants what sounds good, feels good, and looks good. But, the times in which we are living are desperate. Marriages are being destroyed within the church at a rate equal with those of the world. Pornographic websites have the highest volume of traffic on the internet. Schools are becoming battlefields where children have reverted to the ways of the old west shootouts. Militant atheist groups are taking spiritual ground away that our forefathers died for. Good, godly, grounded preaching is the only way to confront such dilemmas and to keep them from continuing to spiral out of control.
We must discover the truth. In 2 Chronicles 34, we read an account of the reign of Josiah. He was only eight years old when they made him king, but at age sixteen, he became conscious of God and began to seek God’s blessing. For several years, Josiah would try to undo the damage that had been done by his father Amon by cleansing the land of idolatry and repairing the temple. As the temple is being cleaned, Hilkiah the high priest “…found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” It is amazing that the Word of God had become lost in the House of God and no one missed it for years! Josiah has the “book” read to him and is broken in conviction. His response is found in verse 21, “…great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the Word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book.” Could this response explain why the church no longer has a voice of respect in the world and our rights as Christians are being stripped from us daily? Could this response explain why the volume of enemies against our nation is increasing while we seek after better negotiators instead of seeking after God? Could this response explain why our nation is experiencing such a dark financial crisis and the White House has yet to call on spiritual leaders for their prayers? The longer we play at church the higher the stakes are climbing.
We must declare the truth. In 1 Kings 22, King Ahab is seeking counsel from the prophets of the day as to whether or not the timing was right to go into battle. Interestingly enough, all four hundred of the prophets stood in agreement and cowardly told Ahab what he wanted to hear. Jehoshaphat was highly suspicious of four hundred preachers all being in agreement and he asks, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?” Ahab answers, “There is yet one man, Micaiah…” Micaiah stood against popular opinions and the sway of the masses in order to speak “thus saith the Lord.” However, the risk of possessing such resolve is being labeled a fanatic. British statesman Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” We desperately need figures who are willing to take their stand and cannot be altered by the world’s agenda. Nehemiah was taken as fanatical by his adversaries, but he took his stance and “…the wall was finished…” John the Baptist was taken as fanatical by the priests, but he made the way clear for the Lord. The disciples thought Mary of Bethany was a fanatic, but her life had an aroma that could not be missed. Those who make the greatest impact on the world are not those who carefully guard their reputation, but rather those who can be everything or nothing in the world’s appraisal.
We must defend the truth. Paul continued to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:4, “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Paul could foresee the day when people would grow weary of the truth, but he also knew they would grow weaker without the truth. We are in desperate need of men who will “earnestly contend for the faith…” because we are facing the serious danger of losing the truth. Author Walter J. Chantry wrote, “When truth is silent, false views seem plausible.” During the ancient battles at sea, approaching ships would often lower their flags to avoid being spotted by the enemies. However, sailors who were both patriotic and courageous requested that their colors be nailed to the mast. There comes a marked moment in every Christian’s life where it must be clearly displayed which side you are on. Joshua challenged the people, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Elijah asked the people of Israel, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Jesus said to the Pharisees, “He that is not with Me is against Me…” These were clarion calls to make a decision of total surrender. A man who will not surrender his person will ultimately surrender his position. If we are not careful to purchase, preach, and protect the truth, we are merely a few years away from a generation “…which knew not the Lord.”
In these uncertain days with persecution looming just over the horizon, what is most needful from the church? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “I would say without hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian church is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the church, it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” There is certainly nothing wrong with fresh methods and creative ideas, but nothing takes the place of preaching except better preaching. Preaching is God’s method for all-time in reaching the lost, and the proclamation of the Gospel can never be substituted or superceded.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2013 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.