April 7, 1998
Scandal Reveals Lack of
Pastoral Instruction To National Conscience
By John Anderson
"The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading!" (Lam 2:14)
If there is any Scripture that should give a serious minister of the Word pause, it is Lamentations 2:14. Here God firmly places the blame for the fall of Jerusalem on the prophets who did not expose the city's sin in order to head off their coming judgment. Instead they falsely proclaimed ultimate deliverance for the city despite the sin of the people. (1)
Exposure of sin is essential to a morally instructed conscience.
God's indictment of those professional prophets is withering: Their proclamations were "false" (twice), "worthless" and "misleading." Why? Because while they preached partial-truth and sunny sermons, Jerusalem's God-ordered judgment was at hand: The army of Babylon was just outside the city, laying siege.
The consequences were disastrous. The leaders and people, lulled by the smooth messages, sinned easily, did not repent, and judgment came. This while Jeremiah, who proclaimed God's truth, was scorned and persecuted and other true prophets like Uriah were executed.(2)
To say that compromised preaching is traitorous is an understatement.
All this sadly illustrates one of the biggest problems God has had over the centuries: Getting His preachers to stay true to message-to speak all of His truth. Usually exposing sin and warning of judgment gets dumped.
The lessons of Lamentations 2:14 should sober us as we view the moral mess that is being sordidly exposed in the scandals surrounding the president. The sad White House soap opera is revealing our basement-level standards. We're seeing how sin has been defined down.
Does "character" matter? Have we really built a great divide between public and private character? Why is it that the president's approval rating has stayed high while his character rating has plummeted? Are we that amoral?
What about "adultery"? Why are we confused that any sex by a married person outside of his or her marriage-oral or otherwise-is adultery, it is sin? Some shrug that if the president's wife doesn't care, we shouldn't. But what does God say?
What about "truth." This is the age of "spin," another name for lying. Truth has become what a lawyer wants it to mean. But Americans are being sickened by the pervasive "spinning," and they are becoming increasingly cynical.
We could go on. But where does God place the responsibility for this moral confusion? Squarely with us who are in the pulpit. From Lamentations 2:14-and related Scriptures-we in the pulpit must understand that we bear primary accountability before God if we fail clearly and completely to enunciate His Word to His people.
Have we instructed our nation's conscience from Scripture? So instructing the conscience is one of the pulpit's primary functions.
Grievously, we have used our pulpits to proclaim everything from success to self-image to psycho-babble. We've promoted church-growth schemes and entertainment and doctrinal fads. But we have not exposed sin.
We must repent. Let's stop excusing ourselves. Let's stop putting a nice spin on our own failure to fully do God's will in our pulpits. May we be grieved that our neglect is sin; it is treachery - our nation's looming judgment testifies to that.
The legacy of Mr. Clinton sadly will be a dirty joke. But that will be nothing compared to the legacy "false," "worthless," and "misleading" pulpits will bestow. Unless there is massive repentance by the pastors of America, our pulpits will leave a nation at ease in its sin and destroyed by sin's consequences.
With that perspective, one of the most compassionate things a preacher can do is to expose sin.
However the good news is that the present moral confusion hands us a prime opportunity to tell the Truth. Right now there is a cry for Truth. And any pulpit that begins earnestly, clearly and compassionately to proclaim Truth may find an added blessing: It could well become the dynamic catalyst God uses to kindle the revival we all want. God has done so before. Ask Jonah. Or Jonathan Edwards.
Our pulpit situation was driven home by a Washington, D.C. newspaper editor who commented on remarks about the President made by a high profile preacher on national TV (a man I respect, but in this instance his comments grieved me). The editor said: "[This well known preacher's] reluctance to come down hard on the president's view of Christian morality is peculiar to our age. Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday, earlier giants of evangelism....never cut public sin any slack."
He added: "The silence of preachers with the duty to denounce the sin...is deafening..." Then he made the observation that what many preachers today do say: "It's the meaningless chatter of holy men with nothing to say to 'a faithless and perverse generation.'"
The results he said are devastating: "This leaves the field clear for shameless secular men...to mug facts and maim truth, seducing an ever widening pool of patsies."(3)
Unwittingly, that editor expounded Lamentation 2:14.
MAY WE PRAY: "Oh our Lord, You have entrusted to us the grand but awesome responsibility of correctly preaching your Word. Sometimes we have been faithful, but many times we have not been. Perhaps we have cared more for the opinions of men than Your approval, or we have been distracted with much busyness. But for whatever reason we confess our sin and ask you to forgive us. We want to know You and Your Word. Anoint us again as we endeavor to proclaim your Truth rightly and fully. And visit us with blessed revival."
(1) Read Jeremiah 28 as one example
(2) Jeremiah 26:20-23
(3) Wes Pruden, Washington Times, March 6, 1998