I don’t think I need to tell you that America is in really bad shape today. We often lay the blame on the fact that we are in the last days. We use passages like 2 Timothy 4 to excuse the condition.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
One thing that we seldom do is ask why this time has come upon us. Is it just something that God has ordained so it had to happen? I know that God foresaw it and recorded here so we would understand what happened, but I don’t think that is what He really wanted to happen. I am sure He would rather that we would remain faithful to His precepts. This does not take away from God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty does not mean He always gets what He wants, it means He has the right and power to correct and punish.
We also blame it on the liberals who have no moral compass to guide them because they have rejected the God of the Bible. They will do absolutely anything to get their way. If you will think about it, they are this way because there is no real righteous example for them to follow.
A French political scientist and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited America to seek the secret to America’s greatness. Here is what he said:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
The secret to America’s greatness was found, not in her resources, her institutions, or even in her Constitution. It was in her goodness that came from the pulpits of her churches being “aflame with righteousness.”
Here are some sad statistics that give insight into why America has lost her greatness.
4,000 Churches close their door every year
4 out of 10 American attend Church weekly
4 out of 10 Church attendees will Divorce
3 out of 10 Pastors report that their Children are not in Church
9 out of 10 Pastors believe the Bible speaks to the controversial political issues of our day
1 out of 10 Pastors preach on these controversial political issues
We “win souls” only to see most of them disappear in a few weeks or months (more later)
Neither President Donald Trump, nor any other politician, can make America great again. America has lost her greatness because she is no longer good. She is no longer good because American pulpits are not aflame with the preaching of righteousness.
We are all familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This was the solution for Israel of old, and it is the solution for America today. This will not happen until our preachers put on their big-boy pants and start making our pulpits “aflame with righteousness.”
Paul’s message to Timothy was:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
All preachers, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, revivalists, or any other name you want to give to a preacher, must follow the principles in this passage. Nothing else can stop the drift away from sound doctrine. It has been my experience that if we do this, those who are true Christians will love our preaching, and many of those who are not will respect us and want to know more. This is how I turned around three dying churches and got them back on the path to both spiritual and numerical growth.
Preach the Word
The first principle is that we must preach the Word of God. Notice that it doesn’t say teach the Word, it says preach the Word. Teaching is good and necessary for spiritual growth, but the Word must be preached if it is going to change lives. “This is what the Bible says,” is not enough. It must be “Thus Saith The Lord.”
I may offend some here, but verse by verse is good teaching, but it is seldom good preaching. I challenge you to find verse by verse preaching in the Bible. Bible preaching always preaches on topics. Don’t misunderstand me, we should do verse by verse teaching, but if we want our people to be sound in the faith we must teach doctrine. I have been told that verse by verse covers every doctrine in the Bible, but this is not wholly true. It does touch on every doctrine, but it does not get into the depth of doctrine.
Ask your church members if they can defend the deity of Christ to a Jehovah Witness. Can they defend eternal security to a Pentecostal? Can the prove, from the Scriptures, that it is God’s will to save all men, and not just a few that He chose in eternity past?
Read the writings of the old time Baptist church members and you will see that they could. I am not talking about pastors, I am talking about ordinary church members. I once asked these questions to one of our good and faithful church members, a man whose heart is set on serving God faithfully, and he could not defend these issues.
Be instant in season, out of season
This just means be ready at all times, when it is convenient (in season) and when it is not (out of season).
This means we must be willing to point out error, even when it offends.
This means to make it personal and charge the person with his sin.
Exhort means to encourage, through the use of strong language, to do what is right.
How are we to do this?
First of all, we are to do it with longsuffering. This simply means that we are to do with even though we may suffer some undesired consequences. It may cost us church members. We may suffer resistance from our deacons. It may offend the brethren. If we don’t do it we offend the God of Heaven, to whom we will all answer one day.
Secondly, we are to do it with doctrine. When I was a baby Christian, we never talked about discipleship or discipleship classes. They were not needed because our pastors taught doctrine from the pulpit. If you were in church you learned what we believed, why we believed it, and how to defend what we believe against those who teach false doctrine.
Why aren’t our pulpits aflame with righteousness?
We have been spoiled by men’s philosophies and traditions.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
It starts with a fear of man. We would rather offend God, and be accepted by men. We have been taught to be positive in our teaching because negativity drives people way. We have tailored our presentation of the Gospel so as not to offend the sinner. One of the first things we tell the lost person is, God loves you. Then we quote John 3:16. Next, we present all of the benefits of being saved. We make it all about the person, rather than all about God.
We do reap many benefits from salvation, but that is not why God saves us.
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
In our invitations, we use man’s psychological methods to get people to the altar. We ask inoffensive questions and have the people answer them by a raised hand. We ask these questions to prime the pump and take away any fear that the lost may have about raising their hands. We then ask those who are not sure of their salvation to raise their hands. Then, during the invitation, we use the fact they raised their hand to shame them to coming forward. Of course, we do it inoffensively, but we do it.
Where in the world do we find this in the Scriptures?
In Acts Chapter 2, Peter’s message told them that they were in dire trouble with God because they had just crucified His Son. On Mars Hill, Paul told the philosophers they would have to answer to the unknown God who created the universe. In Nineveh, Jonah told them that the city would be destroyed in 40 days. Steven’s message to the religious leaders when he was stoned told them how they, like their fathers, had rejected God and His precepts, and that they would be judged for this.
There was no invitation, yet people got saved in each case. I am not saying invitations are wrong, but that is the Holy Spirit that is to do the convicting and bring about a reaction.
In Acts Chapter 2, 3,000 got saved. On Mars Hill, a few got saved, and through them, the Gospel came to Europe and America. In Nineveh, it is estimated that something like on million souls repented and turned to God. Steven’s message only reached one soul that we know about, but it was the great Apostle Paul who was used of God to give us most of our New Testament.
Our problem is, we don’t believe what the Bible says about how souls are saved. I am not talking about the fact that it is by grace, through faith, without works. I am talking about what it takes to bring people to understand their need and desire to know how to be saved.
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
It is the preaching of God’s Word, not men’s plans and methods, that brings sinners to seek salvation and believe the Gospel. When preaching has its proper place in our soul-winning efforts we will see a good harvest. We will see professions that do not fade away in a few weeks or mounts.
The only hope for our nation is a return to God’s precepts and methods by God’s people.