The Duty to Warn
Can we really even begin to appreciate God’s grace without comprehending what would happened to us without it? Grace is God’s undeserved favor. We have it because God loves us and because He initiated a process whereby we could experience it—but what do we really deserve? Where does sin take us? Ultimately, unless God intervenes, it takes us to hell, but it also will take us to a great many other ugly places along the way.
On Wednesday, July 8, 1741, revivalist preacher and Puritan pastor Jonathan delivered his signature sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” to a congregation in Enfield, Connecticut. In his message, Edwards sought to convey that anyone who isn’t following Christ and depending on Him for salvation is taking the ultimate risk. For these souls, eternity hangs in the balance, and without Christ, their destination is hell. The response was overwhelming. Pastor Edwards “was interrupted many times before finishing the sermon by people moaning and crying out, ‘What shall I do to be saved?'” Edwards was a prominent leader during the First Great Awakening, which occurred from around 1730-1755.
Jonathan Edwards understood that the good news about Jesus Christ is as wonderful as it is because the bad news about sin is as terrible as it is. If people don’t see how hopeless their situations are without Christ, they surely cannot comprehend how precious and priceless God’s gift of salvation really is. In fact, it’s so valuable it could only be secured by the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. What can help people see these important things? Like Jonathan Edwards, I believe properly timed and properly framed warnings can open people’s eyes (see Ezekiel 33:1-9).
In an earlier post I affirmed that as believers, “we have been rightly concerned about the need to express love and compassion to those who disagree with us.” Then I lamented, “Yet I fear we have let this concern overshadow our responsibility to speak prophetically.” Today the church needs to rediscover the value of warnings. When it does, it will regain it’s prophetic voice—something it desperately needs to do. Psalm 19:9-11 says,
The rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Warnings, therefore, aren’t just appropriate. They are necessary. Throughout the Bible, God’s spokesmen issued divine warnings. Such warnings are especially necessary in our day, because, looking over the landscape of sermons preached in recent decades, we see that these messages, for the most part, have been bereft of biblical warnings. We need more preachers with the clear understanding and boldness possessed by Jonathan Edwards and the prophets and preachers in Scripture.
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” One way that apparently seems right to many today is the way of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Mark it down: This road will lead us as a nation to a very bad place! If America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage (something it clearly is doing), then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.
If America is traveling to destruction by taking the road of redefining marriage, then warnings against distorting and manipulating marriage need to be issued. Certainly this isn’t the only perilous path America is on, but it is one path about which the church has not sufficiently warned the country.
As a pastor, you can help the church regain its prophetic voice by making sure you do not neglect your duty to warn God’s people and the culture at large. But what should you preach?
For over a year, I’ve been writing articles and posting them at www.wordfoundations.com. Many of these have been Bible studies that a preacher can easily adapt and use for a morning or evening sermon. I’m highlighting seven such posts here. I encourage you to consider using them in your preaching ministry in the coming weeks and months. Along with the seven, I’m also highlighting four additional posts that provide important background information. While thoroughly consistent with biblical truth, these four posts aren’t Bible studies. Even so, you may find ways to convey the information to your people, as it will enhance their understanding of the times in which they we and how we need to conduct ourselves in them.
- Discernment Needed: Eight Menacing Trends in the Evangelical Church—While these trends hopefully aren’t true of you and your church, pastors and Christians need to understand what has been happening in the the evangelical church in recent years.
- The Importance of Seeing the Big Picture—Our culture has not swallowed lies about sexuality and about marriage in a vacuum. Almost unconsciously, it traded theistic presuppositions about life for atheistic ones. Now it is embracing the conclusions that flow from those presuppositions.
- Insights for the Long Haul: Understanding and Loving My Homosexual Neighbor—Here are five things you need to know as you make the effort to befriend and minister to your homosexual neighbor, family member, or coworker.
- Ten Ways Same-Sex Marriage Denies Reality—Here are Ten Ways Secularism, through same-sex marriage, is denying life in the real world. The consequences of pretending that things aren’t what they are can be very severe, so we as Christians must sound the alarm!
Sermon and Bible Study Material
- Discernment Needed—Christians cannot be effectively equipped to warn others if they don’t heed the divine warnings God gives in the Bible. This study showcases numerous warnings against falling prey to the lies of the world. Make sure you and the members of your church aren’t deceived.
- Clarity Needed—If you read, study, or preach just one of these messages, this is the one I hope you will choose. God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.
If you read or preach just one of these messages, please choose “Clarity Needed.” God-ordained marriage is a picture that helps people understand why Christ died—so for the sake of effective evangelism alone, we must protect natural marriage.
- Esse quam videri—Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase that means “to be rather than to seem.” This article explores the ominous nature of a lie and the deadly destination to which it leads. How do we combat lies? We must counter them with the truth!
- Compassion’s Mandate—Christians are told on nearly every front that refusing to accept and celebrate homosexuality and same-sex marriage is bigoted and hateful. Not so! Would a doctor who knows his patient has a deadly disease be compassionate to withhold that information? Of course not. Compassion’s mandate is to declare the truth in love.
- The Supreme Court…Isn’t: Six Things the Bible Tells Us About the State—Christians need to know what the Bible teaches about government and governmental authority. This Bible study explores these teachings. Such authority is delegated by God and can be misused and abused. When government acts outside it’s God-given authority, believers have a duty to hold it accountable.
- Reflections on Repentance—Repentance is seen everywhere as confining, restrictive, and burdensome. Of all people, we as believers know that on the other side of repentance is true freedom. As we present the truth to our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, we need to pray that God would open their eyes to see how refusing to repent means staying in bondage, and how repenting opens up a fresh, new world of liberty.
- Keep Cultivating and Don’t Lose Heart—Declaring the truth in this culture is risky. This Bible study encourages believers to remember the eternal value of the principles they stand for over against the temporal nature of those things they are tempted to hold with a tight grip. Presenting the truth may require sacrifice, but God will bless with things far more valuable. Never give up!
Keep in mind that all of these posts were written in 2015, and many were written before the Supreme Court issued its marriage ruling. Adaptations still can easily be made. Be aware too that some internet links no longer are valid, but the material in each article still is.
I pray that this post will find its way into many pastors’ studies and many Bible study leaders’ homes. Please use this material to warn God’s people and the culture at large about the perils of the direction in which America is headed.
The writer of Hebrews issued this command and this warning to his readers—including you and me: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4). If we would honor marriage, we will never withhold the truth about it from a culture that is confused and misinformed. Nor will we fail to warn people.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Realistically, the initial sparks that will ignite reform in our country will most likely be generated by pastors. Bible study leaders also can help. Will you fulfill your duty?
Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations in this article are from the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.