Is There a Place for Preaching?

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Why some won’t listen

Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t preach to me!” or “I don’t mean to sound like I’m preaching, but . . . .”?

Preaching is not always appreciated. Sometimes this is due to those who fail to practice what they preach. And at times preaching may come across as self-righteous, egotistic.

But perhaps the major reason preaching is not always welcome is that there is within many of us the attitude, “Nobody’s gonna tell ME what to do!”

This rebellious inner self, the Bible says, must be put aside. In its place there must be childlike humility. God calls us to yield control of our lives to Him and make Christ our Lord in every area of our life.

If our beliefs are false or we’re not living right, and the preacher tells us we’re wrong, isn’t he really doing us a tremendous favor, even if it hurts at the time? “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Paul asks (Galatians 4:16).

Paul himself, at one time the violent persecutor of the church, had to learn the shocking truth that he had been working against God when he sincerely thought he was doing God’s will. He had to learn how wrong he was before he could get right. And so must we.

Why it makes sense to listen

If the preacher is true to the message God has revealed in His word, then resisting the message is resisting God Himself (Luke 10:16). The preacher is simply the messenger.

Balanced preaching contains both positive and negative and is geared to the needs of the hearers. It has often been said that preaching should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Sometimes we need to be afflicted.

Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Paul then warns that people will reject unpalatable truth and turn instead to those who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Doesn’t this happen in our day—a lot?

So what do we want? Pleasant words that make us feel good and never bad, or the truth that we so desperately need?

To receive the marvelous blessings of salvation we must be willing to repent by changing our minds and renouncing our sins, then humbly submitting to God’s gracious will (Acts 2:36-38; 22:16).

If it’s really the truth, can we afford to accept anything else?

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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What Are Ears For?

Closed ears

One advantage of a hearing aid, they say, is that you can turn it off. But even a person with excellent hearing can easily tune out an unwelcome message.

Jesus said, “For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

Note the progression: hear→understand→return→be healed.

Healing is dependent on hearing—receptivity to God’s message of grace, life, hope and peace.  And some would close their ears to this?

Open ears

To His disciples Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).

Then He told them, “. . . many prophets and righteous men desired . . . to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (v. 17). Why didn’t they? They died long before Jesus came, and so did not get to hear what the apostles were hearing.

But they desired to, nonetheless (1 Peter 1:10-12).

By telling His disciples this, Jesus wanted them to realize just how privileged they were to hear God’s message.

Open or closed?

Jesus’ most often repeated statement is, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Bible records examples of both those who were eager to hear the gospel (Acts 8:30-39; 10:33; 13:42, 44; 17:10-12), and those who were not (Acts 13:44-46; 18:5-6; 19:8-9; 28:23-28).

Of these two kinds of people—those with open ears and those with closed—which are we?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Man Who Would Not Listen

In spite of . . . .

Zedekiah is one of the many lesser-knowns in the Bible, though he was the last king of the southern kingdom of Judah at the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B. C.

Zedekiah had at least two positive influences in his life that should have prompted him to make wiser choices. His father Josiah was one of the most godly kings Judah ever had. And Jeremiah, God’s prophet, tried repeatedly to persuade Zedekiah to obey God.

In spite of his father’s example and Jeremiah’s warnings, Zedekiah was determined to go his own way. Paying dearly for his foolish choices, he lost his home, his throne, and his freedom. At age 32 the last thing Zedekiah saw before being blinded was the slaying of his sons before his eyes. He died a prisoner in a foreign land (Jeremiah 52:7-11).

If only . . . .

And all this tragedy could have been averted if only had he been willing to obey.

His life is summed up in these sad words: “He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD . . . . he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:12-13).

The following certainly describes Zedekiah: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

What he wanted but didn’t get

The following is a telling passage: “But neither he [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD which He spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. Yet King Zedekiah sent . . . to Jeremiah the prophet saying, ‘Please pray to the LORD our God on our behalf” (Jeremiah 37:2-3).

Zedekiah wanted God’s protection but not His direction.

We can’t have it both ways.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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When to Listen–and When Not To

Note these contrasting proverbs:

“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20).

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10).

One proverb says listen; the other says not to. They are both right.

There were times when David was wise not to listen:

  • When Saul suggested that David was too inexperienced to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33).
  • When his men on two occasions tried to persuade him to kill King Saul (1 Samuel 24, 26).
  • When some said that the ones who could not go into battle should have no share in the spoils (1 Samuel 30:21-25).

Then there were times when David was wise to listen:

  • When Abigail persuaded him not to take vengeance on Nabal and his men (1 Samuel 25:18-34).
  • When Nathan the prophet rebuked him for his sin of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:1-13).
  • When Joab urged David to relate to his people in spite of his grief over Absalom’s death (2 Samuel 19:7-8).

In these cases David shows himself to be a man of restraint (Abigail), of penitence (Nathan), and prudence (Joab).

Steve Singleton pointed out to me one occasion when David should have listened, but didn’t. Joab tried to persuade David not to take a census of his people, but David insisted. He and Israel paid dearly for his refusal to listen (2 Samuel 24).

It takes a humble person to be willing to listen when he should, and a strong person to refuse to listen to those who would lead us astray. It is a foolish person who listens to those who would lead him away from God’s will, and a stubborn, prideful person who will not listen when the truth is spoken.

“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

Let’s learn when to listen—and when not to.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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In One Ear . . . ?

When to listen, when not to

Listening is a major theme of the book of Proverbs.

The book is designed to guide young men in making wise choices, while avoiding foolish ones.

For this to happen, one must really listen, learn, and live accordingly.

Youth must listen to their parents (1:8; 4:1-6; 23:22).

But they must also avoid listening to the wrong people (1:10-19; 7:6-23; 17:4).

They must listen to wise counsel (12:15; 19:20).

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To our advantage

It’s wise to listen to needed correction and foolish not to (1:20-33; 15:32; 25:12).

Listening leads to positive outcomes (8:32-35; 21:28)

Refusing to listen results in major consequences (5:1-14; 13:1; 19:27).

God won’t hear the prayers of those who won’t listen to Him (28:9).

It’s just that important!

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