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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2011

Rebuke: Remedy For Carnality Within The Church

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The Scripture clearly teaches us that the remedy for the onslaught of carnality is preaching that confronts sin with burning words and bold rebuke. Consider the preaching of the prophet Isaiah. In the very first chapter itself, Isaiah delivered a startling rebuke of sin. Isaiah denounced the Israelites’ sacrifices as hypocritical. He boldly declared that God despised their oblations, the incense, their holy days and feasts. Then in no uncertain terms, he told them that God would not hear their prayers because their hands were full of blood. Again in that chapter, he denounced them for oppression of the poor, for their rebellion against God, for their spiritual harlotry. He was unflinching when he remarked that their princes ran with thieves, everyone looked for bribes, and leaders did not give honest protection to widows and orphans. And that is only one example from many in the preaching of Isaiah. He preached gallantly against sins.

Consider Nathan, the prophet who rebuked David. He is a fine example of a God-honouring preacher, who preaches succinctly against sin. Even King David’s royal pomp was no hindrance to his preaching against sin. So Nathan boldly preached a sermon, using a parable to show the wickedness of David’s sin. Then when the anger of David was aroused against the hypothetical rich man who had taken his neighbour’s little ewe lamb, Nathan with crushing and powerful effect pointed his finger in the face of King David and said, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Nathan showed David his horrible sin of murdering Uriah in order to take his wife, Bathsheba. Nathan did not fear the royalty of David. Therefore, he stood up for God and openly denounced David’s sin.

Consider John the Baptist. He sharply rebuked sin. He did not try to be tactful and mild in his rebuke. He firmly said to the Jews, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:7, 8). He made no exception for the Jewish leaders either. He told them they would be hewn down like fruitless trees to be cast into the fire of Hell. He was just as bold when he faced Herod the king and told him plainly that he had no right to take his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3, 4).

Consider the preaching of Stephen. Acts, chapter 7, tells the story of his rebuke of the sins of the Jews. He loudly declared to them, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (7:51–53).

Though many more of God’s servants can be mentioned, let us look at just one more preacher, the Apostle Paul, for our consideration. On his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas came to Paphos. When Elymas the sorcerer withstood them and tried to keep Sergius Paulus, the deputy ruler of the country, from being saved, Paul faced him, filled with the Holy Ghost, and said, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10).

Preachers who refuse to preach against sin, for fear of being negative, certainly do not follow the pattern of these great men of God. However, those who do preach against sin, hurt the feelings of their carnal hearers and make some of them angry, causing frustrations in the crowd. But they are faithful to God and to the Bible.

As much as preachers are called to preach about God’s love, they are also called to preach against sin. The Lord Jesus loved men, loved sinners enough to die for them, but how He hated sin! Remember how He made a whip to drive the traders from the temple, overturned the tables of the moneychangers, scattered the money on the stone floor! Preaching ought to be like that sometimes. With holy boldness, preachers ought to hate sin and expose it.

Jesus preached against sin! He preached against covetousness; He preached against unbelief; He preached against adultery or even looking on a woman to lust after her. He preached against grudges and said that if men did not forgive, neither would the Father in Heaven forgive them. He said to the Pharisees and scribes, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). Men hated Jesus because He preached against sin. May God forgive us preachers, who do not preach like Jesus, because we fear the anger of men.

Today, we need preachers who refuse to be influenced by the sophistry of the popular preachers who do not preach against sin. It is true that preachers ought not to be cowards. They must be courageous to rebuke from the pulpit as well as privately if need be. The preacher who never has a word to say against immodest apparel, drunkenness, adultery, lewdness, covetousness, and blasphemy is a dumb dog who cannot bark. He is a Balaam preaching for profit. He has fallen into the snare of the fear of man. We need preaching against sin, against particular sins. May God give us many youthful, vibrant and fearless preachers everywhere who will speak for God against the carnality that invades churches of our time.

 

Pastoral Exhortation