Pastor's Corner

18 Jan
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Mid-Week Challenge

It is not too often that I address the ministry of another.  Pastor, layperson, self-appointed authority, whomever, it’s just not profitable to give public attention to someone else’s attempt at sharing what they think is appropriate when it comes to religion. More so, if I don’t know the person and I’m not aware of the context, I will not speak up.  However, there are times when another’s works and words become so public, or that the person has positioned themselves as a public authority on the subject, that someone in my position, as a pastor, has to address what was said or done.  This is the case of Beth Moore’s comments on Jonathan Edwards sermon Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God.  The sermon was delivered in 1741 and is one of the most famous and influential sermons of the First Great Awakening that began about 1730 and continued into the 1750s.  It is considered one of the most intense “fire and brimstone” sermons of all times as it deals vividly with the wrath of God, sinful humanity and a very real pit of hell.  

Over the weekend, Moore expressed in a lengthy twitter thread that she doesn’t “get the appeal of Jonathan Edwards.” Moore’s statement came after reading from an old book she owns, which contains a compilation of historic sermons. “I flipped open to a page where I’d handwritten the words,” Moore said, “But I have Jesus.”  Her response was evoked by Edwards’ words, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked… You are 10,000 times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.” Moore explains, “I get that Edwards is talking to those who do not look to Christ for salvation but I’m just saying, I was so broken and self-loathing and ensnared in my sins, such preaching would’ve made me feel like dying. Like running away, not running toward God.”  In her explanation she tries to get us to look past her feelings by confessing, “God uses all sorts of means of calling people out of sin and unbelief. At times, I have very much needed the sternest possible warning from God. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m no big theologian but I just don’t think you’re a spider. And I don’t think God abhors you.”

And that’s why she misses the point of the sermon, and has no business commenting on theological issues, she’s not a theologian and the sermon is bathed in theology.  I think of the Jack Nicholson quote in the movie A Few Good Men, as Tom Cruise’s character demands of Nicholson’s Col. Jessup, “I want the truth!” Jessup forcefully replies, “You can’t handle the truth!” That’s the world we live in today.  Many of these public Bible teachers have made a name for themselves while sidestepping the hard subjects of life that the Bible address.  It’s sad because in ignoring and denying these truths they are saying how they really feel toward their adoring fans; they can’t handle the truth of what the Bible actually says.  In their avoidance, these Bible teachers are in effect saying, “If they knew the truth, they might no longer buy my books or attend my conferences, then what would I do?”  Remember John 11:48 – when the religious leaders had a choice about Jesus and they confessed: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

If Beth Moore is all about grace and mercy and if she would read Edwards sermon, she would see that this was the very purpose of his message that day! People like Moore fail to acknowledge the reality of a perfect Creator dealing with a fallen Creation. The very fact that God explains this to us, provides another day of life to deal with it through repenting and accepting Jesus as anointment, is the most merciful and gracious actions He can show.  It is presumptuous for Moore to believe that Edwards use of such descriptive and visual language is too much for modern ears to hear. Maybe that’s true for her, but not for the person who continues to listen to Edwards and learn of God’s resolution, He does not leave us there, He calls people to respond.

We cannot shy away from difficult truths in Scripture; we must address them and call others to do the same.  I love the grace and mercy sermons, I love to give people hope in Christ, but we must call people to recognize the wretched sinners that we are, and in so doing, understand why it is necessary to surrender ourselves to Jesus.  Paul said it best, “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” Acts 20:26–27

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Serving the Savior,

Bro. Jonathan

 

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