Church columnist: Listen to God, not man

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2016

I recently had a visitor make a comment to me that I have heard on many occasions before, that is both a compliment and a sad statement of the state of affairs in the modern church. This visitor commented to me how nice it was to actually hear some Bible taught in the sermon that morning.

Personally, I take it as the highest of compliments for someone to recognize that what I teach is biblical truth. At the same time, I am saddened by the state of affairs in the modern church.

It is very sad that, in the majority of churches, the members are left biblically illiterate by the pop-culture style of lessons they’re getting from the pulpit. Sadly, many have the idea that the Bible is outdated and people need a more modern, “fresh,” message from their congregations. With these people, the latest trend in pop-psychology out of the “self-help” section of the bookstore takes precedence over the Holy Bible.

I wouldn’t know what to say if I wasn’t “speaking where the Bible speaks.” Or, as the apostle Peter put it, “speaking as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

If the preacher is not preaching from the Bible, he is not fulfilling the God-given charge to preachers.

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, NKJV).

I don’t have anything to offer people to help them live happy and successful lives, greater or more important than the word of God, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” (2 Peter 1:3, NKJV).

How could I presume to teach about the Christian lifestyle from a source other than the Founder of Christianity gave?

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16, NKJV).

The apostle Paul said that the goal of his work, his preaching and teaching was to see “Christ formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). He told the Colossians the same thing.

“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, … which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Colossians 1:24–29, NKJV).

How did Paul say that he labored, as in birth pangs (Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:29), to see Christ formed in Christians? He preached and taught the word of Christ (Colossians 1:28).

How, in the name of my great God and Savior, could a preacher presume to have something better and more important to say than what Paul taught? How can anyone expect to see Christ formed in Christians, which is the hope of glory, if they don’t preach Christ and His word?

Maybe that’s why we have come to the point in America which the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, referred to as a Christian nation; where the majority of our nation are completely biblically illiterate.

The numbers of people that go to church at all have been steadily declining. And, even among those who do go to church, rather than hearing a word from the Lord, they’re hearing the latest trend in how to feel good about their sinful and broken life. Rather than being taught repentance from sin, they are being taught to feel good in their sin. And we wonder why things are the way they are in America today.

We have gone from a country of self-reliant, morally grounded people, to people that look to government to solve all our problems. If the church was doing its job of teaching the “manifold wisdom of God” then we wouldn’t need the government to enact bans against gross immorality.

It’s not the government’s job to legislate morality. It is the church’s job to teach God’s morality (Ephesians 3:10). The church was ordained by God, “according to His eternal purpose,” to do that very thing. To teach His will to the world. How can any church claim to be the New Testament church that doesn’t even teach the New Testament? Absurdity to the extreme!

America would be a much better place if more of her so-called preachers would throw out the pop-psychology and self-help books and pick up their Bibles. Preacher, you are not smarter, wiser, cleverer, more insightful, more understanding than God.

Notice what Paul said about why men would want to preach their own message instead of God’s. “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 4:17, NKJV). “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17–18, NKJV).

Paul said that these people, preaching their own message instead of the message of Christ, do so to draw followers to themselves, not to Christ. Don’t be the follower of some smooth-talking, self-seeking con man.

Even when the apostle Paul preached to the Bereans, the Holy Spirit commended them calling them “noble,” because they didn’t just take Paul’s word for anything. They “searched the Scriptures daily” to verify what He said as the word of God (Acts 17:11).

Every member of every church everywhere should be doing the same thing. Take what your preacher says and lay it next to the word of God. If it matches up, then follow it, knowing it will cause Christ to be formed in you. If it doesn’t match up, though, then flee that church with all haste. Get somewhere, and get there quick, that will help you grow in the knowledge of Christ.

Norm Fields

Contributing columnist

Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or