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  • Writer's pictureTim Hill

Preaching On Trial, Let’s Talk About It

Preaching On Trial

I have been preaching for 47 years and in that time I have tackled many challenging and even sensitive subjects. As an evangelist, pastor and denominational leader, I have done my best to not shirk my responsibility to preach against sin and speak out against worldly compromise encroaching upon the church.  As I’m sure any preacher would know, when one takes a posture against sin it can be costly. More than a few preachers know what it’s like to be threatened and bear the brunt of someone’s scorn and anger. While none of the hard times brought on by our preaching are comparable to those of our forefathers nor the prophets and apostles of the Bible, we can all name sermons that didn’t end with the altar call.

I have no doubt that I have preached about every “Thou Shall Not” of the Ten Commandments and have often denounced the cultural madness that abounds everywhere we look. Of course, when preaching a sermon, every preacher must be prepared to bear up to any expected or unexpected consequences. I have preached against homosexuality and was threatened with protests.  I’ve preached against lust and sexual sins and watched crowds diminish during a revival. I’ve preached against withholding tithe from God and had people leave the church. I’ve preached against drinking alcohol only to have someone slash the tires of my car after service. I have spoken out against racism and afterwards needed security to accompany me to the hotel. Once, I was rushed off of a stage and hidden through the night after preaching in a predominately Hindu country. Needless to say,  I have had a few interesting incidents happen while I preached the gospel.

But this week I experienced a first. Recently after  primarily preaching about the Love of God and that Jesus will save anyone who turns to him, I received word that I was a disappointment and that my calling and leadership integrity should be brought into question. In all honesty, in all of my years of preaching, I have never been as openly challenged over a sermon any more or any stronger.

The message I’m referring to concerns the Love of God expressed in four dimensions and based on John 3:16 and Ephesians 3:15.

Throughout the message, I call sin by name, and make it clear that judgement is certain, but I also land heavy on Isaiah 1:18.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Coinciding with that point in the message I also focus on  1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which reads,

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: BUT YE ARE WASHED, BUT YE ARE SANCTIFIED, BUT YE ARE JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

I’m especially fond of what I call the “rearranging conjunction” in those verses. That’s what the word, “but” is in that passage. A word used to connect clauses or sentences, the latter changing the focus or intent of the first. The blind beggar expressed it when testifying before the Pharisees “I was blind, BUT now I see.” It can be heard in the words of Amazing Grace, “I once was lost, BUT now I’m found.”

Trust me. I’m as focused as I’ve ever been in my preaching that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But I’m just as focused on the fact that “God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:8)

There you have it.

I really don’t think the offended had a problem with the theme at all. I think the offense had to do with my mentioning that holiness isn’t revealed in the hardness or harshness of mine or anyone else’s  words and actions but rather in the finished work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  Accepting Christ as Savior, we turn from a life of sin unto a lifestyle of right living separated from the world unto God. After all, Holiness only results from a right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior accepting His gift of eternal life.

Or it could have been the remark about my commitment to preach on love at least as much as I preach on Hell. Oh, make no mistake, I indeed have some red-hot sermons about Hell and have preached them all over the world. Most definitely, there is a Hell and sadly, people do go there and when they go, they stay forever.

Here’s the outline from Luke 16:19-31

The Place,

The People

and the Permanence of Hell.

Believe me, that one is hard to preach without tears.

Maybe I was simply misunderstood from a sound bite lasting only a few seconds. Possibly, someone only heard what they wanted to hear. I don’t know.

At least their communication would seem to indicate such.  What I do know is this.  I have seen hundreds come to know Jesus as Lord and they have turned from a life of sin. So I think I’ll stay the course.

Granted, I’m a Pentecostal preacher. I preach loud, I turn beet-red and tend to be somewhat energetic. Well, I used to be energetic. A lot of us are that way and for me, I’m probably in the “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks” club. I accept that. What I don’t have to be however, is mean-spirited. I can preach loudly without being harsh. I can be convincing and with the help of the Holy Spirit, the message can be convicting but it doesn’t have to be condemning.  Certainly, anyone living in sin will chafe at the truth when it is preached, but we can’t back up from proclaiming it. However, somewhere in the midst of it, that same soul has got to hear and find hope.

Many years ago, I heard it this way. Every car battery has a negative as well as a positive terminal, and connection to both are required for a car to operate. So it is with preaching. Rightly dividing the word of God insures that lost souls will be saved and the body of Christ will be blessed.

Dr. James O. Coldiron may have said it best, “From Genesis to Revelation, from earth's greatest tragedy to earth's greatest triumph, the dramatic story of man's lowest depths and God's highest heights can be couched into a condensation of twenty-five beautiful words: "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Well, I’ll try it again next Sunday.  If my recent batting average holds up, I’ll offend some and bless others. Hopefully, both the offended and the blessed will meet me at the altar

Tim Hill

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