Please Take This Personally!

By Jamie Sloan

Preaching does not have to be stopped to be rendered ineffective. If it can be generalized and impersonalized so that it no longer convicts one of sin or instructs one in righteousness, that preaching is worthless. Preaching is not pure oratory nor fluent journalism. The kingdom of God does not depend upon man’s ability to tell the story. The power of God to save is in the story itself. However, such qualities as courage and knowledge are greatly needed in preaching and teaching what is needed to whom it is needed. A handle must be put on the preaching; too much of it is left up in the air.

Often those who preach the gospel, either orally or by the printed page, emphasize that their remarks are not directed toward any one individual – a “don’t take this personally” attitude. Surely it would be an abuse of the right to publicly teach the Word of God to use that right in prosecuting and persecuting anyone for personal reasons. If a teacher or preacher has something to say to a person, the courage which it takes to publicly rebuke a person will be sufficient courage to approach that person privately. The abuse of the pulpit and editorial chair is a problem of malice and ill will -not courage. We agree that such is the lowest kind of conduct, and would not want to say anything that could be construed as approving of such.

However, since Bible truths are addressed to all in a general way this is often taken by many as a justification for not making a personal application. So, this article is written to prompt you and me to take teaching and admonition personally – to examine our own heart and life by the Word of God. If what you know you are is not consistent with what you know you should be, then admonitions to repentance are for you. You see, you must personally give an account unto God (Rom. 14:12). You will not be able to become “lost in the crowd” in the day of judgment. And, please do not become angry with the one who preaches the word of God when you rind your heart pricked by that word. Paul asked, “So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16) The Hebrew apostle wrote that the word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword . . . quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

The philosophy of the compromiser seems to be that the most sanitary and painless way of dealing with sin is to “preach the principle, and let them make the application.” Jesus did not operate on that basis. He told the chief priest and Pharisees the parable of the wicked husbandmen in Matthew 21:23-46. When he asked them about the Lord’s predictable attitude toward the husbandmen, they said, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men. . . ” (v. 41). They had heard the principle, but failed to make the application. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you,” and that was plain enough. Verse 45 informs us that the Pharisees “perceived that he spake of them.” It did not take real intuitive folks to reach that conclusion. Peter on Pentecost preached the lofty principle of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He also added the personal note, “whom ye crucified.” Preaching should be plain enough to get the point across, and provocative enough that the sinner is convicted.

A lot is being taught today from pen and pulpit regarding what is called “preaching opinion.” It seems to me that some are teaching that we cannot reason to a conclusion or apply revealed principles in some areas. Specific conclusions need to be reached and preached regarding such matters as modest apparel, social drinking, business ethics, parental and marital responsibilities, etc. It’s time some good and godly men and women expressed their sound judgment in these and other matters, and were not intimidated by those who would justify their worldliness by shouts of “opinion, opinion.” If those principles revealed in Holy Writ to govern our lives are not workable, then they are fallible and worthless.

This failure to see our specific duty is further seen in our lack of emphasis on individual effort in the kingdom of God. We have a collective mentality that judges success by what is accomplished by the local congregation, rather than taking account of our individual responsibility. You have been created by God in His own image – a being that is capable of understanding Truth, of knowing the difference between right and wrong, and of faithfully serving either God or Satan. God has chosen that through you His will be done on the earth. You, individually, are responsible for using your abilities and opportunities to the fullest. Some brethren are famous for attributing their “success” to their huge, costly organizations. However, true, lasting good in the Lord’s church is dependent upon you – your work, your sacrifice and your prayers.

We have a trite expression that says, “If the shoe fits, wear it” and another like unto it, “If I am ringing your number, answer it.” I will just say that when the things we write and speak from time to time do apply to me, you, or all of us -then for that person or group it was intended.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 14, pp. 419, 440
July 16, 1987