Well before the Revoice conference sought to carve out a place for smooth men in the evangelical and Reformed world, that way had already been prepared for them long before. Now it is true that John the Baptist was charged to make the rough places plain (Is. 40:4), so there is a sense in which such things are okay, but it took a rough man to do that. And therein lies a foundational point that must be learned and mastered.
As my father taught me many years ago, soft teaching is what creates hard hearts. Hard teaching is what creates soft hearts. The liberal mentality reverses this, and it is why, a short time after we have adopted their kindly suggestions, we see nothing but sad faces all around us.
The liberal mentality often appears years before the actual liberalism does, and the liberal mentality is what makes this kind of mistake so readily. Here are a few samples. If you spank your children, you are teaching them violence. If you practice church discipline, you are chasing people away from the church. If you preach the unvarnished Word of God, then people will grow hard in their love of a dogmatic blustering. In short, the liberal mentality believes that hard teaching creates hard hearts, and soft teaching is the kind of life coaching that creates soft hearts. This is a photo negative of the truth.
Whether or not Chick fil A has gone liberal in their recent rejection of the be-less-chikken stance, they most certainly are trying out the wisdom of the liberal mentality. Maybe if we give our enemies what they are demanding, this will turn them into our friends. The word we are looking for is appease, and it is vainly thought that appeasement is something other than surrender.
Gospel Should be Taken Like Whiskey, Straight
So a clear Word from God, authoritatively declared, is a hard word. Sin requires repentance and sin requires blood. It is a repentance we cannot muster, and it is the kind of pure blood that we do not have. We are therefore utterly lost.
And so it is that when the holy law of God is preached, and it falls on us like a collapsing mountain range, and when this is followed with a proclamation of free grace and forgiveness, a proclamation given to all those crushed beneath that mountain range of sheer holiness, a miracle of covenant kindness occurs. All our loathsome cadavers are dug out from the rubble, raised from the dead, and we are given the grace of walking in newness of life.
So in this sinful world, there is only one thing that can produce a tender heart. Allow me to say it again. In this sinful world, just one thing can bring about a tender heart. And that one thing is the wrath of God.
It is a wrath that was located in one place only, a wrath that descended in full fury from Heaven to Golgotha, that skull hill which held up the cross of Christ. The word propitiation sums up every aspect of this, and propitiation refers to how the death of Christ under the wrath of God was the genesis of any possible salvation. And this how hard hearts are made tender.
It is the only way that hard hearts can be made tender. The quarry of God’s wrath is the only place where these living stones can be quarried.
What About the Other Way?
And when you flip it around, you see another striking example of the same kind of reversal in expectations. Sinners with hard hearts love it when some soft preacher breaks out some feather duster of a sermon. With hearts like marble, with foreheads like flint, and with a brain full of snakes, the rebels want the preachers to be courteous enough to leave their sins alone. Many preachers are happy to oblige. Many preachers are trained to oblige. Many preachers cannot get ordained unless they promise to oblige.
But in contrast to the feather duster sermon, the faithful preacher brings a jackhammer, hooked up to a heavy duty air compressor. A jackhammer is what it takes to break up the hard hearts.
“Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” ().
Jer. 23:29 (KJV)
A Few Roughs With the Smooths
The Lord Himself pointed out that when everyone went out to see John the Baptist, they did not go out to see a smooth man (Matt. 11:8). That kind of man is found in kings’ palaces. That kind of man wreaks his own peculiar kind of havoc out of an air-conditioned office, a place with plush carpeting, a polite receptionist, and a broad expanse of glass for a front wall, one that is cleaned twice a week.
The name of some great ecclesiastical reformer, safely dead for centuries now, is etched in the glass as a way of honoring his memory, and were that reformer to come back from the grave to see what is being done in his name, he would no doubt start the proceedings by throwing the coffee table of that swank reception area through the glass. The part of the glass where his name was.
Jesus taught us all about this particular juke move.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.”
Matthew 23:29–32 (KJV)
We do not meditate on this enough. Bragging on your forefathers in the faith is a good way to demonstrate a much greater likelihood that you would have been, had you been alive back then, part of the mob trying to get him run out of town. This is because soft boys are all about trying to fit in. And when angular prophets are alive and kicking, the way to fit in is to tsk under your breath about how off-putting Jeremiah has been lately. And then, centuries later, when Jeremiah Hall is having the marble cornices installed, and the grand dedication is coming up, and you are organizing the press releases for the event, you have some trouble in your soul about whether that crack that Jesus made today in His teaching was really quite necessary. I mean, He didn’t say that your job was not quite the ticket. He said it was a blood crime waiting to be filled to its full measure. He kind of thought it was a big deal.
“Now go, write it before them in a table, And note it in a book, That it may be for the time to come For ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; And to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”
Is. 30:8–10 (KJV)
We even have an industry dedicated to smooth things. We have conference circuits for seers who can’t see. We have prophetic conferences which are overtly dedicated to saying the right thing while assiduously avoiding the actual saying of it, and the people are demanding even more of this theological bafflegab. Conference registrations are way up from last year! The demand for our smooth things is hot. We might even need some back-up fog machines this year.
Lies must be smooth. They all must be thrown into the devil’s blender, and when you throw lies in the devil’s blender, what you get are the devil’s smoothies. Those things go down well too, cool to the throat, but it should be pointed out that they really unsettle the stomach. This is why the tables of Ephraim are covered with vomit and filthiness (Is. 28).
All Right Then
I have laid out my argument. I have quoted Jeremiah and Jesus and Isaiah. Why do you hesitate? Why do you still tolerate leaders who want to play footsie with world? All right then. You have forced me to it. I am going to quote C.S. Lewis. If there is one thing that move-with-the-times evangelicals have it is a deep appreciation for C.S. Lewis. If there is one thing that telling-the-world-it-is-quite-right Christians have it is a profound indebtedness to the Oxford don.
“In fact, we must at all costs not move with the times. We serve One who said ‘Heaven and Earth shall move with the times, but my words shall not move with the times.’”
“Jesus Christ did not say “Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.” The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.”
Today’s Giveaway Deal
When it comes to topics like this one, it is easy for faithful Christians, and there are at least 7,000 of you, to get discouraged. And so the giveaway deal today is Heaven Misplaced, which you ought to think of as a kind of postmill pick-me-up.