Monday, July 17, 2017

Four Steps to Correcting the Controversy

Micah 8

For several months, we have examined the Lord's controversy with His people as revealed in Micah. Surely Micah has brought, not just a message of Israel's poor condition, but the means to cure that condition. He did, and I think as you will see we may glean some application to our own day and time in this as well.

What was required to cure Israel's controversy with the Lord? A bold, Spirit-filled preacher. But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. (Micah 3.8) This was not arrogance. This was a divinely inspired statement by God of Micah's vital role in making it possible for Israel to come back to her God.

Micah lived in a generation much like our own, indeed like every human generation. We do not like to be told that we are wrong. We do not like to be wrong because it messes with our peace of mind. Humanity rejects living the unreconciled life. What I am doing is thus right, and if what I am doing now I used to think was wrong I change how I think about it.

Very few people live lives they think are wrong. Many, nay, most people live lives full of wrong but very few will admit it. They must find and have found a way to justify that wrong, to rationalize it as being no longer wrong but rather right. We do not like our own conscience or mind accusing us of living or being wrong so we either change to be right or change our concept of right. Statements such as, 'I have forgiven myself,' or, 'I have learned to accept myself,' or, 'Well, I have grown since then' are all indicators of this internal process of self-justification.

Not only is our peace of mind wrapped up in this concept of our own righteousness so is our pride as well. Thus – because humanity rejects living the unreconciled life and is filled with pride – humanity largely rejects those who constantly inform them of their own error.
Compounding this error is our still present hunger for something mystical, something spiritual so long as it does not bring conviction. This is why Paul says people will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. (II Timothy 4.3) Micah said the same thing essentially. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people. (Micah 2.11)

Because of this constant human failing there is great pressure on preachers of every generation to avoid controversial subjects, to avoid confronting people with their error. Men who preach and teach things that primarily make others feel good about themselves heap up plaudits, praises, and crowds, while the men who preach and teach the opposite often find themselves living a misunderstood, lonely, criticized existence. Take a walk through the Old Testament prophets and this is exactly what you will find. Not coincidentally, you will find the same thing true amongst modern-day prophets, the genuine men of God who vigorously denounce sin and resist the spirit of the age.

Jesus Himself knew just a bit about individual and corporate rejection of His message against sin. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3.20)

Let me illustrate this with jewelry. If a diamond ring is flawed the easiest solution is to say
it is not flawed, and to run with a crowd of other people who say it is not flawed. Further, if I can find a gemologist to tell me it is not flawed I feel even better. How do I begin to solve this problem? I need someone who is bold enough and firm enough to tell me emphatically and without apology that it is flawed. To mix metaphors, we need someone, anyone, even a little child to loudly pipe up that the emperor indeed has no clothes.

This boldness in a preacher is necessary, but it is not in and of itself enough. People who boldly tell you your error are often ignored, laughed at, derided, and avoided. Think of the last guy you saw wearing a sandwich board sign that said, 'The end is near!' He was bold but he was not accomplishing much.

In order for boldness in delivering God's message to be effective it must be delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16.8) When I preach it is not my volume, my logic, my emotion, or the force of my personality that convicts men; it is the Holy Spirit. Yes, He uses boldness as a tool in so doing, but it is still done in, with, and through Him.

These thoughts lead me to four simple applications for us today.

First, embrace conviction. Seek it. When the Lord graciously brings it do not bristle, do not seek to justify yourself. Draw it deep into yourself, learn from it, and thank God that He is at work in your life.

Second, do not fence your preacher in. If you do not understand something he preaches, by all means, go and ask him to explain it. If you do not think he has adequately made his case from Scripture, and it is important, then respectfully tell him so. But do not quarrel with him. Do not quarrel with him externally around other people; do not quarrel with him internally, in the privacy of your own mind, simply because a particular sermon made you feel badly. If he makes you feel badly on occasion the thing to do is to check your actions and thinking against Scripture, but do not quarrel with the preacher.

People produce great errors in themselves when they put their preachers into a box. Do not demand that he avoid certain topics. Do not complain that his delivery is too loud or too soft, that it is too humorous or too boring, that it is too short or too long. Keep him free to roam where the Lord leads him.

As well, beware the preacher that never tells you something you do not like. If he is always pleasing, always encouraging, always comforting, always uplifting, always fascinating you with new things there is danger there. Often, he should step on your toes. Every once in a while, he should skin your hide or else he is not doing his job. And if he fails at his job you and he will both be the poorer for it.

In line with this, third, recognize the primacy of preaching. This is how God has chosen to work in and on men. (I Corinthians 1.21) Preaching must always and ever have the central place in the church service.

Lastly, pray for God to send our world more bold, Spirit-filled preachers. Ezekiel said it this way:

Ezekiel 22.23 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
24 Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.
25 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
28 And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.
29 The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.
30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

When we are in the weeds, personally or corporately, and God raises up one of His men to tell us as much, if we will listen, we are well on our way to correcting the problem.

Do not bristle at this; embrace it.

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