Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           February 17, 2008                           NO. 4

DEEP OR MUDDY?

    Through the years there have been individuals, usually preachers, who feature themselves as being "free thinkers" who present "thought provoking" lessons that are usually attacks upon what they call the "traditionally held" views. The "in depth" lessons presented by these individuals usually leave many in the audience wondering just what they have said and thinking that the preacher is so "deep" in his thinking and presentation that they do not understand simply because they do not have the knowledge or ability the preacher has. These men have at times caused confusion and strife by their preaching and when questioned about their teaching they usually reply, "You just don't understand what I am saying." Again, the implication is that any problem that may exist is due to the lack of knowledge or ability on the part of the hearer to comprehend the "deep" things taught by the preacher.

    I think it is time to start putting the blame where it belongs. Are these men the "deep" thinkers they want us to believe they are? I often think of a statement I once heard made by an old country fellow. He said, "Just because you can't see the bottom of the river doesn't necessarily mean the water is deep, it may just be muddy." I am convinced that this is the case with some of these "deep" thinkers. They have the ability to present their thoughts in such a confusing manner that they just "muddy the water."

    The apostle Paul said that he wrote the things revealed to him by the Holy Spirit so that "when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4). One of the characteristics of faithful gospel preachers through the years has been their ability to present the truth of the gospel in a way that made it easily understood by those who heard. If these men who fancy themselves as being such "in depth" students of the word really have the knowledge and ability they want us to believe they have then why don't they just teach what they believe to be the truth in a simple understandable manner. If we are misunderstanding what they are teaching then we plead with them to use their "superior" ability and present their teaching so that we "inferiors" can understand. The gospel of Christ remains the same today as when first preached on the day of Pentecost. When someone has to preach something that has never been preached before or preach it in a way no one else has ever preached it we had better beware.

    I certainly do not want to discourage any study of God's word nor do I condone those who become satisfied with "the way we have always done things" and will not change even when change is necessary to conform to God's word. However, I do not approve of those who seem more concerned with impressing men with their ability to be "deep thinkers" rather than helping men understand the plain and simple teachings of God's word. All preachers need, from time to time, to ask themselves the same question Paul asked in his epistle to the Galatians; "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?" (Gal. 1:10). Paul said, "if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."

    I have often said that the two greatest compliments that could be paid to one preaching are: (1) "He preaches the truth" and (2) "He presents it in such a way that all can understand." When we become more concerned with "making an impression" than we are with "preaching the word" we are making a grave mistake. Our concern must always be the salvation of souls and not self-glorification. If the gospel is preached souls will be saved and God will be glorified.

    Don't be intimidated by those who try to make you feel inferior in your ability to understand truth. Their teaching may not be "deep," it may just be "muddy."

---James Hahn

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What Makes Preaching "Negative"?

    We are continually concerned about maintaining a proper "balance" in our preaching. In particular, we are sensitive about the criticisms concerning too much "negative" preaching. With this in mind, we'd like to ask the question: What makes preaching "negative?"

    First, let us observe that the very same sermon will be regarded by some as positive and by others as negative. Every preacher has experienced the situation where - following a lesson - some praised the message for its uplifting content and others complained that it was a discouragement. It seems clear that much of this is "in the eye of the beholder." Those who are striving to live faithfully for God, who are trying to rid their lives of sin and wickedness, who really want help with overcoming their spiritual weaknesses, will be thankful for anything that moves them in those directions. If there is a "hard" lesson that exposes and denounces sin, they will appreciate it as simply one of the things that will maintain their resolve to be the best they can be.

    Conversely, if a person is not living right, and has not been putting forth a sincere effort, they will feel that the sermon was "aimed" right at them, or that the preacher was "picking" on them in some way. Often the preacher does not even know that he "stepped on their toes."

    Consider this illustration: A preacher preaches a strong sermon condemning the sin of using tobacco. There is one brother in the congregation who recently quit the evil "weed." He thanks the preacher and tells him that the lesson will be a big help in maintaining his resolve to stop smoking. For him, the sermon was "positive." Another brother, who is still a smoker, gets mad about the lesson. He gripes (but usually not directly to the preacher) that the preacher is too "negative," and that a lesson like that simply will not do any good.

    Do you see it? Yes, we need "balance" in our preaching. But, please realize that your reaction to a given lesson probably says as much about you as it does about the preacher.

---Greg Gwin

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***SENTENCE SERMONS***

Do not handicap your children by giving them everything and making them work for nothing.

***

Children have to be taught to listen to their elders, but they have a natural instinct to imitate them.

***

Steel that loses its temper is worthless -- so are men.

***

The only way some people can wind themselves up is by running somebody else down.

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