“Master, are you aware the Pharisees were offended by (what you preached)?” (Matthew 15:12)
The truth has a way of offending.
Those who preach the Word must keep a sharp edge on their message.
The typical “liberal” church in modern America has no problem offending traditionalists. What it cannot do–will not dare do, not for all the world!–is to go against the conventional wisdom of the day. If the culture decides a thing is wrong, the accommodating church finds a way to adapt its doctrine and practices to the prevailing whims. And so we have churches that call themselves Christian and Bible-believing ignoring or twisting Scripture in order to justify abortions, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, and the LGBTQ agenda, while erasing from their beliefs and practices anything having to do with the necessity of being born again, the role of the blood of Christ in our salvation, or the reality of hell.
What’s going on here?
The disciples heard Jesus say, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in yourselves.” As they tried to process such unfamiliar terms, they said, “These are hard sayings; who can hear them?” (John 6:53ff). In the context of this discussion, it appears the Lord is saying that He phrased His teaching this way to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, true to form, the shallow group interested only in their appetites being satisfied drifted away. The Lord looked up to see the multitudes gone and only the original twelve standing by. “Well,” He said with perhaps a little irritation, “will you go away too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).
The movie “Paul the Apostle of Christ” is dedicated to those who have suffered for their faith. The story shows in stark contrast the difference in the way of Rome and the early followers of Jesus. After seeing the movie recently, I began to wonder whether my faith would have been found offensive in First Century Rome. Or whether we have stripped this ancient faith of its offensive elements.
Someone once said, “Everywhere the Apostle Paul went, revolution broke out. Everywhere I go, they serve tea.”
Have we made the gospel of Jesus Christ comfortable with our modern age? Have we stripped Christ’s message of its hard edges?
And what exactly are those “hard edges,” I wondered. Perhaps the answer to that depends on the culture and the times. What one generation or one country objects to might be different from another. But where I live–in America in the second decade of the 21st Century–these are some aspects of the historic faith of the Lord Jesus Christ which many object to and are going all-out to sand down to a comfortable level:
One. The deity of Christ.
They have no objection to His being a prophet or good man. But not God in the flesh, of all things. So, we have teachers like Bart Ehrman writing a book on “How Jesus Became God.” The very title is blasphemous, if you ask me. Jesus has been God from the very beginning of the beginningless beginning. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Man finds His deity offensive. And such statements as Colossians 2:9 (“All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily”) are little short of outrageous to the modern mind that rejects both the miraculous and the Creator.
Two. The role of Christ.
Among other things, Jesus came to reveal the Father to humanity. And, by His own words, He is the only One able to do so. “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man,” Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:13). Therefore, “no one knows the Father except the Son and they to whom I reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22). Is that narrow enough for you?
Modern man finds such narrowness offensive. The carnal mind wants his faith to be comfortable and cushiony, with no sharp edges to create a sensation.
Three. The blood of Christ.
“Saved by the blood of Jesus! Whoever heard of such rot!” With those words a professor at the University of Alabama opened a class one day. He was a member of the education department of all things, but using academic freedom as a license to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10), he was venting on the students and doubtless revealing that he was under conviction from the Holy Spirit.
Man finds it offensive. All the Old Testament altars, I suppose, were just so much primitive worship and not, as we believe, preparation for the cross of Calvary where our sins would be atoned. A church calling itself Baptist not far from where I live has, I hear, removed all allusions to the blood of Jesus from any hymn or doctrinal statements.
Four. You must be born again.
That command from our Lord to Nicodemus offends the modern mind which wants to believe we can earn our way into Heaven, that all are naturally good, and that no one will ever be lost forever. One doctrine almost every liberal church in America holds dear is the universality of salvation, that none will be lost. And if that’s the case, why send missionaries, why share the gospel, and everyone may now return to their naps.
Five. The historic doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary Atonement, the physical bodily resurrection, and the Second Coming.
The typical liberal church–by that we mean one that has accommodated its teachings to the approval of the outside world–will never mention any of these doctrines. What they will do is put the emphasis on worship, nature, thanksgiving, and good deeds–four elements we love and approve of, but only within the fullness of the teachings of our Lord. Oh, and love. Love is everything.
And because love is everything–after all, they will say, “God is love”–then anyone acting in love must be doing God’s will. And with that, they open the door to every perversion which Scripture forbids.
“Preach the word.” The time will come–and has already arrived–when people will not abide sound doctrine but will heap to themselves teachers who speak comforting words that tickle their ears. 2 Timothy 4
The pastor who cannot allow someone to walk away because they did not like to hear the truth will not last in the ministry. Jesus had no trouble allowing the carnal and hostile to leave, and we shouldn’t either.