April 04, 2011

Preaching - The Word

Before I launch into a series on the difference between Unconditional Love and Sovereign Love, I want to discuss this idea of Preaching God's Word.

In Jeremiah 20:9, speaking of the Word of God which is not always pleasant to it's audience, the prophet says,
If I say, "I will not mention him,
   or speak any more in his name,"
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
   shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
   and I cannot.


There is a great company of "prophets" in todays day and age preaching words from the Holy Scriptures.  Many are consumed with zeal for the message they proclaim.  Not only are their words powerful, but their enthusiasm is contagious.  People from all walks of life are moved to action and response, likewise becoming consumed by the message they hear.  Here's the problem (and this only applies to the issue I am addressing):


There is a difference between becoming consumed with the message, and being consumed with the "fear" of the One from whom the message comes.


Fear is in quotations because it does not mean "to be afraid of".  It is a term much deeper and intimate than the fear one would have of, say, being tortured.  But I will address that in another post.


The interesting thing about this verse is that it comes in the middle of a story of reproach for a false prophet who did not properly steward the office he held as teacher and priest of The Lord's people.  He was one who had great zeal for the message he preached, but not necessarily great zeal for the Word of God.


There is a difference between a message of love, and the Word of God.  The Word of God is infinitely more holisitc than a simple message of love.  It is infinitely deep.  It is infinitely wide.  It is infinitely higher than our thoughts.  Notice that this all encompassing boundary is not restricted to a simple message of love, but the entire Word of God.


The interesting thing about the verse above is that it is actually referring to a prophecy of condemnation and conviction, not love and forgiveness.  It is a message that Jeremiah doesn't want to proclaim, but the all consuming fire of God's Word "shut up in his bones" will not let him be the judge and jury of God's intentions and/or words.  In fact, this verse comes immediately after a severe beating and a night in the stocks for proclaiming  yet another negative message from God.  Yet, the prophet can not stop preaching the Word as it comes.


True zeal for the Word of God is evidenced by a commitment to mature the hearers of the message in a relationship with the One the message comes from.  True zeal does not edit or omit parts of the message because it recognizes that every part of the message is just as "real", "imperative", and "personal" as every other part.  


True maturity comes when a child responds to every part appropriately, not just the positive experiences.  


Imagine a 20 year old child being able to respond positively every time his/her parents gave him/her a present, but every time they were disappointed and required certain specific standards and procedures be met and/or accomplished for discipline and restitution to be made, the child simply ignored the parents as if they were not even present or giving the instruction.  We would not call that child mature simply because the child understands how to live within positive circumstances, but is incapable of understanding or even accepting the negative circumstances.


I wonder how many of the zealots of God's Word today are truly zealous for God's Word.  Shepherds will be tested and judged according to the stewardship with which they handled the Word of God.  But for those who don't teach, are they exempt from this responsibility to the whole Word of God?


"But the entirety of the Word is ultimately about God's love for us!"


Really?

Romans 12:2 says "Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world any longer, but instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind SO THAT YOU MAY DISCERN WHAT IS THE GOOD, PERFECT, and PLEASING WILL OF GOD."

The purpose of the Whole Word of GOd is to reveal to us both the true nature of Our God in as holistic picture as our minds can comprehend, and to allow us to discern His will - all of it pertaining to every part of life.

The more I counsel, the more I talk to enthusiastic Christians, the more aware I become that the Bride of Christ is losing zeal for the Word of God, and they are not even aware of it, because they have been trained to think of a single message as the entire Word of God.  They accept certain parts that foster favorable human experiences, and ignore the parts that interfere with positive human experience.  Are they saved?  I believe many of them are.

So then, what is the big deal?

First of all, part of the holistic message is that we are to be presented mature to Christ on the day He returns for His Bride, equipped for EVERY good work (that includes quite a few unpleasant experiences as you read Scripture).
Second, because one day the Bride of Christ will be removed form this earth, and a bunch of people, possibly our children and grandchildren will be left with the model that we leave behind, and that is all they will have to get them through what can very aptly be referred to as a time of "Hell on Earth."  They may have the Word, they may not, but regardless, they will only have as a teacher and example what we leave behind.  God's Word is meant to give us discernment for every situation in life, and there is coming a day, when the parts of the Word that have been so poorly stewarded will be desperately needed.


The point is this, are you zealous for the holistic Word of God?  


There is a difference in being truly zealous for Him and His Word, and being excited about a message which makes you the center of a love story.


Are you truly zealous to know the blessing that comes from a God-honoring response to every part?  Are you growing in a maturity that allows you discern His good, perfect, and pleasing will in all aspects of living?

With you for His glory