by Jeremy Farley
I’ve been serving the Lord for little more than a decade now and throughout the entire duration of this time I have always heard preachers speak about how the final days will be characterized by a “falling away.”
I have always believed this to be a truth and even observed the heartbreaking prophecy fulfilled on my television and in the newspapers – watching in disgust as historically solid denominations caved in the face of social pressures brought on by the media and a fresh wave of ungodly boldness that has swept the planet.
In the face of all of this, however, I have been proud to claim the title independent Baptist, blessed to know that I am a part of the remnant that has not figuratively bowed before Baal.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, an act the Scriptures plainly and uncompromisingly define as an abomination of the highest order, I was heartbroken as I witnessed many once hardline independent Baptist preachers softening their stance on this wicked lifestyle.
Rather than reading Facebook posts denouncing this gross sin and defining it for what it truly is, my newsfeed was inundated with “Let’s not forget that we’re all sinners…” and “Let’s not be critical about this sin, until we’ve gotten the mote out of our own eye.”
To be fair, there were and remain many who have remained faithful to the Old Book, but sadly, at a time when God’s people should have been yelling to the top of their lungs that a major injustice and abomination had been wrought upon this land, many of His ministers – or at least many who claim to be His ministers – were either silent or so wishy-washy that they would have done less harm had they been silent.
Yes, it is true that God can save the lowest of sinners… “of whom I am chief,” said Paul.
Yes, it is true that the church has an obligation to lovingly reach sinners with the truths of salvation.
However, far too many preachers have become obsessed with the idea of “reaching them” that they have failed to recognize that our primary task as Men of God in the final days is simply to be found faithful to the Word – not be found successful in reaching the multitudes or changing a culture.
We know this, because the Scriptures plainly show this to be the case:
In II Timothy 3, Paul outlines how perilous the last days will be, describing a world that is full of religion, yet reprobate concerning the faith:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away… Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth… men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith…” – II Timothy 3.5, 7, 8b,
And what are we supposed to do in the midst of this wicked and corrupt generation? Are we to replace traditional sermons with dramas and dance teams? Are we to replace our pulpits with worship teams and seek to find the trendiest new fad a megapastor is advising? Are we to shed our suits for blue jeans and sandals in hopes of appearing less “preachery”?
No! We as preachers are commanded to do one thing:
“Preach the word…” (II Timothy 4.2)
Even in modern-day 2015, God’s Word offers one avenue for “reaching them,” preach the word!
Even in a college town. Even in atheistic Europe. Even in a Gospel-saturated community in the buckle of the Bible belt – it makes no difference when or where, we have been commanded to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season…”
This single act is essential to the success of our faith, and is the bedrock of Christianity, for, without the preaching of the cross, the Gospel message is without “the power of God.”
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” – I Corinthians 1.18
Not only does Paul command preachers to preach to the very end, but Paul also details exactly how we are to preach:
“…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4.2)
Interestingly, at a time when so many are watering-down their messages in hopes of being more effective, Paul, the most successful preacher in human history outside of Jesus, commanded that two-thirds of our preaching be negative: reprove, rebuke and exhort.
On the flip side of this, however, even in the midst of our negative preaching, there is to be a “long-suffering,” a gentleness, a brokenness, a Christ-like passion that is burning inside of our hearts as we go about reproving and rebuking, fearfully and compassionately wrestling the powers of Hell for the souls of our fellow man:
“And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” – Jude 22-23
At the core of any preacher’s very existence, however, should be a jealous zeal – not to have the largest congregation in town, not to be acceptable in the eyes of the world, not even to reach sinners, but to be found faithful to the doctrines of our faith.
Sound doctrine, in our personal living and in our public ministry should be the obsession of any man who claims to be a minister of the truth:
“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” – Titus 1.9
In essence, you’re not going to win them by tickling their ears, but rather by being different – through sound doctrine!
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” – Titus 2.1
“For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” – I Timothy 1.10
Sound doctrine is only obtained through the Scriptures – thus when it comes to church growth, pastors would do themselves and their congregations much service by returning to the Book that governs the church, rather than the latest best-seller written by a man:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” – II Timothy 3.16-17
The problem is this – for too many years, many independent Baptist pastors have been walking a tightrope with their parishioners and communities on one side and “the holy brethren” on the other side.
It is because of this that many preachers seem to be talking out both sides of their mouths when it comes to an issue so cut-and-dry as gay marriage: they’re trying not to appear offensive to their carnal and unsaved communities and Sunday-morning-only visitors, while at the same time fearful of alienating fellow pastors and preachers.
In the end, any such preacher looks like a fool to both audiences and is less effective than that person who has resolved to remain a gospel preacher, regardless of societal norms or the laws of men.
The bottom line is this:
As we near his returning, rather than being a church and a people whom the lost world is attracted to and desirous to be like, the successful churches will be those that are loathed and disdained by their culture – to put it simply, the churches that are pleasing to God will be those that are seeking to stand out from their culture, not blend in with their culture:
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” – II Timothy 3.12
“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;” – II Timothy 4.3
“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” – Matthew 10.23-25
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…” – Mark 13.13
Rather than seek to be a church that is “relative” in this generation, we should seek to be a church that is resolute; resolute to remain faithful to the Scriptures no matter what the price.
I have the privilege of preaching throughout the east coast of the United States each weekend and can say without a doubt that the churches that have remained faithful and resolute to the Scriptures are doing anything but struggling – people are getting real help – they’re getting eternal help and they just can’t keep from telling their neighbors!
by Jeremy Farley