How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words
Desiring God 2008 National Conference
These are notes taken during the session, not a manuscript.)
I was asked to speak on “Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words.” The big idea is that some go too far, and some don’t go far enough. We’re going to spend some time reading Scripture, including Scriptures that some may not be comfortable with.
1. Christians are to feed the sheep.
We deal with different people differently, and we have to discern who goes into what category. When we’re dealing with Christians, the effort should be to love, encourage, grow them. I love my people with all my heart, and I’ve given them my life. I’ve told them I’m preaching my own funeral. That’s how I intend to go out. I love and adore my people.
We see this in the ministry of Jesus. He speaks to the woman at the well in a loving way. Jesus speaks like this to Zaccheus. Romans 14 shows us this as well. Paul says “It doesn’t matter what you eat or don’t eat. Love your brother.”
Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This is speaking of sheep. We’re not supposed to be kind to wolves or false teachers. We’re not to be kind to those speaking false doctrine. Some Christians, when you begin to critique others, quote Eph. 4:32. We are supposed to be kind, but to one another. We are not to be kind to wolves.
2. Rebuke the swine.
These are people who are habitually unrepentant in their sin. Their not acting like sheep, though they claim to be. Paul tells Timothy to rebuke with all authority.
Isaiah 3:16-24 – “The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.”
We read that and say, “That’s fine,” unless you are that woman, unless that’s your daughter or wife. All of a sudden, you are offended because the God of the universe has opinions about accessories. Here God rebukes women for their sin.
Whole books of the Bible are devoted to rebuke in a satirical way. The whole book of Amos is a satirical rebuke.
Amos 4:1 – “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’”
You laugh because you don’t think he’s talking about you. I’ve never seen a culture where a woman likes being called a cow.
These women live in very nice homes up on the mountains. They are very rich. God shows up to these women and says, “The clothes you are wearing were made in a sweatshop and your nanny is an illegal immigrant. I know your gal pals are part of the local Rotary Club. I’ve decided to call you the cows of Bashan.” It’s funny, and you can laugh, even though it’s a nervous laughter. Some would say, “I would never say that.” God said that.
Amos 6:4-6 – “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”
Woe to you who roll around in Escalades and wear lots of bling and lay around on couches hoping you can get onto MTV Cribs. This is God’s way of rebuking the sheep who are acting like swine. Their consciences are so broken that apart from a storng rebuke, they will not be changed.
Again, we don’t think God is talking about us. How many of us are in debt with buying things to impress people. The Bible is okay when it’s talking about them. But it’s painfully read when it’s talking about us.
Ezekiel 16:26-28 – “You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied.”
I was listening to Christian radio recently, and it said “We are safe for the whole family.” The DJ read the verse of the day, and I knew it wouldn’t be this one.
Ezek 23:18-21 “When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”
Some translations translate “semen.” God is rebuking his people for idolatry, sin, and sexual perversion.
Today we use euphemisms like “Having an affair.” I can’t handle it. A pastor having sex with someone not his wife is not an affair. It’s adultery. We use good words for good things and bad words for bad things, and we confuse people when we use good words for bad things.
More money is spent on pornography than on foreign aid. A porn film is made in this country every forty minutes. When you’re in the middle of a war you sometimes have to bring out the big guns.
Proverbs rebukes the sluggard. He’s talking about you 20 year old bloggers who live with your mom and sleep in Star Wars sheets.