By Donnie V. Rader
Soft preaching comforts those who are indifferent. Judah of Isaiah’s day cried out for “smooth things” (Isa. 30:10). Soft preaching does little to prick the heart in sin.
Some who are indifferent never were diligent or zealous. Others have lost the fervor they once had. What causes people to be or become indifferent?
1. A lack of fear of God. Fear toward God involves (a) respect and awe for the Creator of the world (Jonah 1:9; Luke 7:16) and (b) a dread of displeasing him (1 Sam. 11:7; Ps. 119:120). How could one who has fear for God be indifferent?
The fear of God causes one to do what God says. Moses plead with Israel to fear God as they pressed on into Canaan. His instructions connected fear with doing what God says.
Now this is the commandment . . . that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statues and his commandments which I have commanded you . . . (Deut. 6:2).
You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him (Deut. 13:4).
And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of his law and these statutes (Deut. 17:19).
The fear of God causes one to be dedicated, i.e., put their all into the service of God. Again, Moses connected the idea of whole-heart service with the fear of God.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut. 10:12).
Thus, I conclude that those who are indifferent just don’t fear God. We need not make excuses about how they would do better if. . . . When they fear God, they will do better!
2. Focus on the present world. We get wrapped up in this life to the point that spiritual things are pushed aside. The cares of the world can easily choke out the word (Matt. 13:22). Like Demas, our love for the present world may cause us to forsake or neglect what really matters (2 Tim. 4:10).
When we are materially blessed (as most of us are) it is easy to let our spirituality slide. The warnings are many that when we prosper there is the danger to forget about God. Moses warned saying, “. . . when you have eaten and are full — then beware, let you forget the Lord . . .” (Deut. 6:11-12). The Proverb writer said he wanted neither poverty nor riches, “lest I be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” (Prov. 30:8-9).
We can easily lie in ease on beds of ivory and let our service to God deteriorate (Amos 6:1-6). Our activities do not have to involve anything wrong within themselves to be a problem. When we lose sight of the fact that this world is not our home, but we are seeking a better one to come (Heb. 13:14), we become indifferent.
3. Ignorance. Ignorance is a curse to any people. The prophets of old pointed to Israel’s and Judah’s ignorance as leading to their departure.
My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children (Hosea 4:6). Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge (Isa. 5:13).
Why would God’s people be ignorant? Some have not learned because they have not been taught. Jesus said we should teach, baptize, and teach them some more (Matt. 28:20). If we baptize them and leave them to “sink or swim,” we can only expect ignorance and indifference. Others have forgotten what they once knew (Heb. 5:11-12). Some ignore what they have been taught (cf. Rom. 10:3, 17 in context is saying that the reason the Jews didn’t believe is that they didn’t listen!).
What we don’t know makes a difference. If I don’t know the commands of God, I can’t obey them (Eph. 5:17). If I don’t know about the judgment to come, I will not fear (Heb. 10:27). If I don’t know what the text means, I may be violating it (1 John 3:4). If I don’t know the truth, I could easily be led into error (2 Pet. 3:16-18).
4. Softness. Soft preaching comforts those who are indifferent. Judah of Isaiah’s day cried out for “smooth things” (Isa. 30:10). Soft preaching does little to prick the heart in sin. “Positive” preaching that eliminates the “negative” makes people who are in sin and indifferent about it, feel good about themselves. Soft preaching is not identified by what is said as much as it is by what is not said.
When there is a lack of “teeth” in the message preached, the indifferent are encouraged in their sin. It is not enough to preach the truth, but elders and churches must discipline. That involves correcting, rebuking, encouraging, and with- drawing when there is no repentance. The work of elders is that of watching for the souls of men (Heb. 13:17; Tit. 1). All too often, brethren want the truth to be preached on some sin, of which, some of the members are guilty, but never follow through with any application or discipline!