When I started in the ministry, nearly forty years ago, I said that I whenever I was blessed to lead a church, I would not preach the message the old preachers in that day and time were preaching. It seemed to me that they were “preaching to the choir” so to speak when they preached a message about repentance and the need to be born again Sunday after Sunday. It didn’t make sense to me: Why would you always preach about the need to be born again to people who were already born again? Why talk so much about the need to repent to people who had already repented? Me and my naïve self! I was under the impression that all church members were saved! It wasn’t until I became a pastor myself that I was ambushed by the startling reality that everybody that talks about Heaven will not be going! When I became a pastor, I found out for myself that many church members are members of the church, but they are not members of the Body of Christ! They have their names on the church-roll, but their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! They have given the preacher their hand, but they have not given the Lord their heart! Many church members claim to be “saved” but the truth of the matter is; they are saved only in their own minds! As Paul writes of the Jews in Romans 10: They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, are going about to establish their own righteousness and have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God!
Now, before you say I’m being judgmental, I am just merely being observant. Jesus said that a tree is known by the fruit it bears! We live in a culture today wherein if you call a spade a spade, you are labelled as being bigoted or intolerant. But there is nothing wrong with making judgments; it’s just wrong to be judgmental. It’s nothing wrong with being critical, as in being analytical, it’s just wrong to be constantly criticizing, like you are more or better than anybody else! But lest I stray too much, let me get back to my main issue.
The old preachers were right! The greatest field for evangelism in America today is within the four walls of many church buildings! The church today is being rocked by scandal after scandal! It’s not a month that goes by wherein the secular media is not reporting about some pastor or prominent religious leader involved in some sexual or money-related scandal! All this adverse publicity of immorality is just what the cynics love to hear! It gives them an excuse to write Christianity and the church off as being just a rip-off and a racket! What makes it even worse is the offenders rarely show any real signs of Godly sorrow and true repentance. The only sorrow they show is the sorrow that they got caught! The gullible faithful readily forgive the offenders without the offender offering any real sign of repentance! All this serves to make a mockery of the faith and the Name of the Lord to be blasphemed (spoken ill of, cursed) by unbelievers! Because of the behavior of many church members, the world is cursing God and the church!
And so, I’ll say it again; the old preachers were right! The main problem with the church today is that there are too many members, too many leaders, yes, even too many pastors, who simply have not been born again! They have not had a true spiritual encounter with God! Their lives have not been changed or transformed by the Spirit of God!
To make the situation even worse, at a time when the preaching of repentance and true faith is needed the most; we are preaching less! When was the last time you heard a sermon about being born again? When was the last time you heard a sermon about the need to live right? Most of what we hear preached these days is about being blessed and getting more of this or that! Faith these days is not measured by the content of character or by right actions, but rather by the size of houses and bank accounts! But let me go “old fashion” for just a minute: God will not bless mess! A real spiritual transformation, a right-relationship ,and righteous living are still the requirements of true biblical faith!
And so, I want to apologize to the old preachers! I thought I was right and they were just old fashioned and wrong! But they were right and I was just young and naïve! Yes! In a time and day wherein this type of preaching is passé, I want to go on record to say: The old preachers were right: You must be born again! You must repent of your sins to be right with God! For as Jesus once asked: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26 KJV)