By Mike Willis
When the Lord sent the prophet Jeremiah to the disobedient nation of Israel, he sent him on a mission of grace and mercy. He sent him to call his nation to repentance that the Babylonian captivity might ,be averted. His, mission was to save lost souls from damnation.
Times were bad. Sin was rampant and entrenched. Sin had its citadels and fortresses. For the nation to be saved, those citadels of sin had to be destroyed. Before building or planting could occur, these citadels of sin and obnoxious weeds had to be removed. Jeremiah’s mission was given to him by God.
And the Lord said unto me, Behold I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant (Jer. 1:9-10).
His instructions to destroy the citadels of sin were similar to those given Israel when she was instructed to destroy the Canaanites under the leadership of Joshua (cf. Exod. 34:12-17; Num. 33:51-56; Deut. 7:1-26). The wickedness of the Canaanites was so great that they had to be destroyed; compromise was explicitly forbidden.
There Are Still Citadels of Sin
Even as there were citadels of sin in Jeremiah’s day, there are citadels of sin in our own society. Here are some of them:
1. Immorality (Gal. 5:19; 1 Cor. 6:9-10,12-20). Our nation is wholly given to sensuality; sensuality is entrenched among the people. Fornication is commonplace, among all age groups. Adultery destroys many marriages. Homosexuals have come out of the closet and demand that the rest of the world accept them as they are. Pornography is a billion dollar a year business. Gambling has been legalized in most states. The illegal sale and use of drugs has permeated the whole nation.
2. Corruption in government. Our government is riddled with bribery, theft, embezzlement, and other forms of dishonesty. Our system thrives on “you back my project and I’ll back yours.”
3. False religion. False religion is entrenched. The so-called world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.) control the minds of millions of people. Modern denominationalism, with its hierarchies, continues to venture further from the truth. False religion is just as damnable as immorality (Matt. 15:14-15).
4. Apostasy within the church. The Devil has repeatedly assaulted the church, leading sizable groups of God’s people into apostasy. In the 19th century, the Devil took about 90 percent of God’s people into apostasy by the introduction of church supported missionary societies (and later, other societies of a benevolent nature) instrumental music in worship, loose preaching, fraternization with denominations, modernism, etc. Today that apostasy is entrenched in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ denomination. In the 1940s, the Devil assaulted the body of Christ with premillennialism. The proponents of this doctrine not only introduced doctrines unrevealed in the Bible, but also moved toward unity with the denominations. Thanks to the work of men such as Foy E. Wallace, Jr., this movement had a lesser impact on God’s people.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Devil again assaulted the Lord’s body. Again he persuaded churches to support human institutions (colleges, orphan homes, unwed mothers homes, hospitals, etc.). He changed the organization of the church through the sponsoring church arrangement and involved the church in social work (recreation, orphan homes, hospitals, etc.). As the movement has grown, the preaching has become looser, fraternization with denominations has begun, and outright modernism has been taught in places. This movement took away about 85-90 percent of the Lord’s churches and is now entrenched as a citadel of sin.
The Citadels of Sin Must Be Destroyed
God’s people must realize the impact that sin has on the souls of men. Sensuality, false religion, and apostasy lead men into eternal damnation. Hence, the Christian stands opposed to sin. He recognizes that the citadels of sin must be destroyed. Before planting can occur or building begin, he must “root out, and pull down, and destroy, and throw down” the citadels of sin.
We make no apology for negative preaching. There are citadels of sin in our society and these fortresses of sin must be rooted out, pulled down, destroyed and thrown down. This is the charge given to a gospel preacher.- “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
We should expect that those associated with sin will not sit quietly while their fortresses are being thrown down. When Paul assaulted idolatry in Ephesus, those associated with idolatry rose up in protest against him. Demetrius led the charge (Acts 19:24-27). If idolatry was destroyed, his means of making a living through the sale of silver idols would perish. He had a vested interest in the worship of Diana and attacked Paul when he preached against idolatry.
The same thing happens today. They are misguided who think that they can attack the citadels of sin without offending those who practice those sins. Regardless of how kindly presented, the gospel which condemns sin will raise protest from those who have no intention of repenting of their sins.
When a person attacks the citadels of pornography, the men who make their living through the sale of pornography rise up in protest. The crusade led by Donald E. Wildmon, has stirred up Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, etc. The American Civil Liberties Union has defended their first amendment “right” to publish and sell their filth. They attack Donald E. Wildmon for the same reason that Demetrius attacked Paul! Unfavorable TV coverage is given any attack against pornography, labeling it “censorship,” because the media sees nothing wrong with pornography.
When abortion is attacked, Planned Parenthood rises in protest. Their government funding and income generated through abortion – the murder of innocent unborn babies – is under attack. Organizations such as the National Organization of Women, the United Methodist Church, and Disciples of Christ join the protest. Why? Because they agree that abortion is right. Hence, they rally to stop the opposition to abortion.
Just as attacking pornography raises the ire of the pornographers and attacking abortion stirs up Planned Parenthood, preaching against false religion stirs up those associated with unrevealed religion. When you oppose the false doctrines of Islam, Muslims are upset; when you oppose Catholicism, Catholics protest. When you attract “faith only,” Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians cry. Why? They have a vested interested in seeing that these denominations not be destroyed.
Why Do Some Christians Try to Stop the Attack?
Why would Christians oppose the assault against the citadels of sin? I can understand why the publishers of pornography want preaching against pornography stopped. I can understand why the ACLU rises to the defense of the pornographers – because they see nothing wrong with pornography. But why would Christians oppose the preaching against citadels of sin such as denominationalism and apostasy within the church?
The fact of the matter is that some Christians do protest the assaults against these citadels of sin. When a good sermon is preached, kindly and gently exposing the false doctrines of some popular denomination, some members will complain, “Your preaching is too negative. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Don’t mention denominations from the pulpit. Don’t condemn the denominations.” They don’t want their friends and neighbors to hear sermons of this sort. When weak brethren protest the attack against this citadel of sin, they expose their sympathy with denominationalism. Apparently they do not believe that those in denominations will be lost!
When a good sermon is preached, kindly and gently exposing apostasy within the church, some brethren will complain about the preaching. They do not want anyone to leave the impression that those in liberalism are part of the devil’s army, lost and doomed to hell. There is something wrong with the heart of those who are more disturbed by those who attack false doctrine than they are with those preaching the false doctrine! Why would men be upset when apostasies within the church are opposed? Apparently they do not believe that those involved in these apostasies are lost.
When a good sermon is preached, kindly and gently exposing the wickedness of lascivious conduct (such as mixed swimming, dancing, petting, immodest dress, etc.), smoking, or gambling, some brethren complain about the preaching. Generally, these are the brethren practicing these things. They do not want their own little citadel of sin destroyed, torn down, rooted out, etc. Hiding their sympathies under some guise (such as “we need more positive preaching”) does not change the fact that these brethren practice the sinful activity and want preaching against it stopped.
A Time to Build
Negative preaching can clear the ground for building to be done. But, we can never build the building of God simply by tearing down the citadels of Satan. There is a time to build. We must build an edifice which is according to God’s word. We cannot build the church of the Lord through gimmicks and carnal appeals. The solid preaching of the word of God is what builds faith (Rom. 10:17), enabling Christians to grow into maturity (Heb. 5:13-14). We should work with just as much zeal in building faith in the hearts of men as we work to destroy the citadels of sin.
We need gospel preaching which teaches how to be saved, stresses growth in the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.), emphasizes the need for good family life, instructs us in how to live at peace with ourselves and with our brethren. Simply opposing denominationalism will not suffice to grow this character. Inasmuch as every man needs to hear sermons which tear down and root out and sermons which plant and build, there is no room for the kind of preaching which specializes in either tearing down or building, to the neglect of the other.
May God give us the wisdom and courage to teach all of his word in a spirit of love and meekness. Let us be busy in the Lord’s work: “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 21, pp. 642, 661-662
November 2, 1989