When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
- Acts 2:37-41
“I preach to my congregation week after week. And I pray that I may be able to preach with such convicting power that my people will sweat! I do not want them to leave my services feeling good. The last thing I want to do is to give them some kind of religious tranquilizer – and let them go to hell in their relaxation.”
- A. W. Tozer, Jesus is Victor
The Tozer quote is from a preacher’s perspective, but as a worshiper in the pews, I must agree. Far too often, I learn something from the sermon, but the sermon does not move me to action. In that sense, the sermon was wasted. Not necessarily speaking of our present preacher, but I have heard thousands of sermons over the years. (I have done the math. Maybe you should also if you are a regular church-goer.) Frankly, I would love to hear a sermon that would move me enough to write two posts about it. In one post, it should include a confession of what area of my life still needed improvement. For those who are saved, a fire and brimstone sermon is effective toward sanctification, maybe more so than the unsaved toward salvation. An unsaved person does not enjoy hearing that they are sinners, but a saved person knows that he/she is a sinner and should be ready to deal with that sin.
The church where we attend has a senior pastor who is the quintessential picture of God’s love for all who encounter him. I do not think that he could ever pull off the classic Southern Baptist fire and brimstone sermon, with rage in his voice and spit drooling from his lips. I have heard that some other members in the church are starting to look for that fire and brimstone preacher elsewhere. They don’t really have to leave. Our pastor, while excellent at pastoral care and sermons that match, is great at the subtle fire and brimstone. No shouting and talking down to you, but he gets the point across regarding the fact that Jesus died to save us from something, and that our time is short. In most cases, our time is much shorter than we think.
When someone has a serious illness or a near miss terrible accident, they realize how short time can be. There is urgency in their actions and their speech. They want others to know what is important to them. Is God important?
I have a lot of lovely, loving friends who have no unkind words for anyone. They have the “do not judge, or you shall be judged” motto, but it bothers me that when they look at their neighbors or their fellow church goers, and all that these friends see is the good qualities of the other person. Okay, they only see my good qualities. That one fact is probably the only reason why I remain their friend. Otherwise, why hang around this guy?!
But, I have an evangelist’s heart. I cannot see my neighbor quietly go through life simply being ‘good’ and hoping that is enough. I grew up in church. I was a good kid. I know that is not enough. I take the Great Commission seriously. If I said nothing, I would die inside. I would be betraying God in remaining silent. It boggles my mind that others see a friend, notice a glimmer of something that might be a little good – sort of, and then ignore saying anything further in fear of offending them. If they are offended, there is no Truth in them. If they embrace in Love, the attempt to direct them toward Jesus might help to remind them that they should be doing the same thing in spreading the Word. But God could be working on that person’s heart, and it may be up to that good friend to jar them into turning toward Jesus – at least pointing in that direction. Can you sit by, acting like you love them, while ushering them toward eternal suffering by your lack of saying a few ‘dangerous’ words? Speaking those ‘dangerous’ words is showing Love.
Just read Peter’s sermon prior to the Scripture above. He did not speak in politically correct terms. He did not gild the lily. He did not worry about offending anyone. He flatly told the crowd that they were guilty of murdering the Son of God. Then he called them to repent. Now that is a sermon that made a difference. As the Scripture above states, about three thousand new followers of Jesus were added that day.
There are few churches in our area that have 3,000 people attending on any given Sunday, or weekend for that matter, maybe none close-by. But I do not think it a bad idea to make the 300 squirm in their seats a bit. Sweating is good for you. Otherwise, we get complacent, lazy, and lukewarm. And what does Jesus say about a lukewarm church? In Revelation 3, He says in the letter to Laodicea that He would love to spit it out. Don’t call yourself God’s church that He ordained when God wants to throw up just thinking about you.
Are you willing to be part of the lukewarm church or are you ready to grow closer to Jesus by coming face-to-face with what is wrong in your life and repenting? For me, let me leave church uncomfortable, if it means that I change my life to be closer to Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.