Judy T sent this to me earlier in the week, and I have to agree. It’s not the job of a preacher to flatter those in the congregation or stroke their egos. He is to preach for One, and One only, that is His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not that we do not preach for those in the congregation, but we do not let them influence us in regards to preaching the text. I know some of my hardest sermons to preach, have been those that the world would have rejected outright, because when we preach the gospel faithfully, it truly is offensive.
Why is that?
Because the gospel says there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn any favor with God. If we are Christians, it is because He has chosen us, not because we have chosen Him. We are saved and redeemed because of His actions, not because of anything in us. This flies in the face of our fallen nature. We want to somehow add to our salvation. But to do so is to risk becoming self-righteous.
This message has fallen on hard times in our day. If you don’t believe me, just spend some time in a Christian bookstore. You will find book after book that look more like secular self-help books than books on the true gospel of Christ. Or the other motif, books about the “overcoming” Christian, as if the central message of the gospel was to help us “overcome.” We do not overcome our sin and suffering. That is not the message of the gospel. The message of the gospel is that our sin and suffering were so bad that One who was perfect had to die on the cross in order to save us from it. If there is any overcoming in the gospel, it is that He did so by dying for us. He didn’t die so that we could then become “empowered” or “self actuated” to be better people. He died because we are not better people. Good preachers preach this truth. No, it’s not flattering. But it is much better than that. When a pastor preaches the truth of the gospel, sometimes God uses it to redeem sinners to Himself. Sometimes He uses it to feed His sheep. And He always uses it for His glory.
Here is what Pastor Ryle writes and is found at JC Ryle Quotes:
Preachers: Don’t Flatter, Speak Truth
Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers, like John the Baptist, in these latter days. A morbid dislike to strong language - an excessive fear of giving offence, a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking - are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit. Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no charity in flattering unconverted people, by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth epithets to damnable sins. There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26) In the other it is written, “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Gal. 1:10)
~ J.C. Ryle