“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” [Proverbs 27:6].
Paul urges Timothy “You as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong” [2 Timothy 4:2, Amplified Bible].
Citing scripture from Proverbs is of course an example from the Old Testament. Second Timothy is from the New Testament.
As I read the Old Testament I see God, through his messengers, telling the Israelites don’t do this or you will be punished. As I read the New Testament, the approach is different.
What is different about it?
The New Testament has commands but the idea of grace seems to make all the difference in the world. The commands are there to tell us what to do or not to do but grace give us the power to grow as Christians. Commands are not meant to be suggestions.
Too many “New Testament Christians” see “their” testament as less commanding and more forgiving. Therefore the idea of grace is preached in our churches as a way to cover our sins. What is evident in John Bevere’s book Good or God? is that grace is much more than just a Godly covering of our sins. Grace gives us power over our sins as we use it to grow beyond our failings.
Today, pastors would rather communicate to their churches that all will be ok and we don’t have to worry about sinning and repercussions. The list at the end of this post* has commandments that many do not think are in the New Testament.
I have commented on the first four New Testament commandments and now will comment on the fifth one: don’t be sexually immoral. What that means is that as sons and daughters of God, we are not to commit adultery, engage in homosexuality or engage in any sexual activity until we are married.
Pastors who preach against sexual immorality confront a contemporary American culture that is very accepting of various forms of sexual immorality. As a blogger, I feel tense even writing about this subject due to reader objection, but it is truth and sometimes truth is uncomfortable. It is no wonder most pastors don’t want to preach on this topic. You might say they are “swimming against the tide,” the cultural tide.
In my family, I have relatives who are “living together.” My own son did that for three months before he married. We were very clear before he started living with his girlfriend that we did not approve of the living together arrangement [yes, we communicated an uncomfortable truth]. Today many people don’t see any sin in living together out of wedlock. Bevere states “All too often I’ve encountered couples living together who profess Christianity. This is not a rare occurrence—it’s actually rampant in the church. Many of these couples attend evangelical churches, are outspoken in their faith, and are often exuberant over ‘what God is doing’ in their lives. There’s no hint of conviction, remorse or sorrow. They simply don’t believe living together when unmarried is wrong” [Bevere, 173].
What is happening in our churches today is the messages of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude are being ignored, the idea that we should be living Godly, chaste lives.
The shrinking numbers of people who are coming to church would be shrinking even more if the message was on chaste Godly living. Statisticians report that only 17.7 percent of the population in America regularly attend church. A “regular attender” is someone who attends worship service three times out of eight Sundays.**
Instead of touching on this hot topic, it is much easier to avoid it all together. What happens is that culture rules the day and contemporary American culture says if you are in love, just live together. It is ok.
Bevere believes if pastors don’t warn believers about their sins, there will be consequences. Churches may be encouraging ungodly behavior by what they are not saying.
What could happen if the message of chaste living could be delivered from the pulpit? What could happen if pastors could find a way to express these ideas with love?
I have my share of sins I commit on a regular basis and if a loving friend finds a way to point them out to me I am not sure I would hate the messenger. It all depends on the words they use and the attitude I feel coming from them. My best friend is someone who cares for me so much that they want to help me. Telling me to make a correction may just be what I need to hear. I can make a mid-course correction and have peace in my life because I know I need to follow my Lord and Savior in a better way. Instead of grace covering my sin, I can pray to The Lord for His grace to help me recover from my sin and pray for His grace to empower me to do better.
Let’s recall the opening words of this post: “Wounds from a sincere friend are better…”
*don’t tell lies, don’t sin by letting anger control you, don’t steal, don’t use foul or abusive language, don’t be sexually immoral, don’t be impure, don’t be greedy, don’t tell obscene stories, don’t talk foolishly, don’t tell rude jokes and don’t be drunk with wine.
** “Seven Startling Facts: An Up-close Look at Attendance in Churches Today” by Kelly Shattuck