Years ago, I heard of a church that did not want the whole truth.
The pastor was using words like sin, sinner, hell and punishment in his weekly sermons.
This was not sitting too well with the congregation.
They wanted words like grace, hope and acceptance in their sermons.
They were at an impasse. The pastor said he was not going to change. The church said they were not happy with his sermons.
You know what happened. He moved on to another church, hopefully to a church that could accept his blunt message.
Pastor Idleman speaks of Jonah. Jonah did not sugarcoat his sermons. God sent Jonah to confront the people of Nineveh with their impending destruction. Jonah did what God asked. He said to the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
Guess what. They believed. They embraced his warning and they changed. God responded with compassion and grace.
So often this is not the case. Jeremiah was another prophet who had a message to a backsliding people, Judah. The people of Judah are stubborn and they have rebellious hearts. Jeremiah’s message is that the people must wash the evil from their hearts.
It won’t be easy.
Even if they try to scrub themselves with soda and soap, the stain will not be removed. If Ethiopians can change their skin and leopards can change their spots maybe they can change their ways. That is not going to happen. Jeremiah says that the sin has been written with an iron pen and engraved with a diamond point. It is not going away.
In short, their deceitful heart is sick.
What is their only hope? God. Only God can change the people. Nothing they can do as humans will clean up their mess.
What will not help? Responses like “I’m sure it won’t be that bad, there is plenty of time to turn this around or I am sure things will get better” are not going to help. Making a serious problem less of a problem is not the way to go [minimization].
“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
Embrace the truth; don’t fire the preacher and say “it’s going to be ok.”
Embracing the truth is the way to experience God’s compassion and grace.