But Micaiah replied, "If you return safely, it will mean that the Lord has not spoken through me!" Then he added to those standing around, "Everyone mark my words!" -- 1Kings 22: 28 (NLT)
Christianity is not a game beloved. Church is not meant to be something we play to make ourselves feel better. American Christianity is simply awash with self serving wannabe prophets and makeshift preachers who simply do not seem to care that what they say could consign someone to an eternity of suffering and pain apart from God. People who have no business divining the Word of Truth because they are seemingly oblivious to the damage they do to those who might actually be saved. The Bible says that God gave SOME to be pastors and teachers, not all. If you operate outside of your calling in hospitality perhaps someone ends up getting insulted but operating outside of your calling when it comes to preaching can easily leave your hands covered in blood that you will answer to God for. And please realize that having people say "amen preach it" is not confirmation that God is pleased. It is confirmation about what Paul warned Timothy would happen in these end days:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. -- 2Timothy 4: 3-4 (NLT)
Listen, I understand that people do not want to hear about sin. I understand that they do not want to hear about wrath. I get it. I really do. I can see why someone would much rather hear about how this is the year of supernatural blessing for them! How God is love love love and we don't have to worry about our inherent sin nature anymore because of the cross -- glory hallelujah. But I know as someone called and charged with bringing the Gospel, I must be held to a higher standard and there are parts of the Bible I ignore only at my own peril:
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. -- Galatians 1: 9-10 (NIV)
I want to see as many people as possible in heaven as opposed to hear their "amens" here on earth. But this notion of ear-tickling preachers is not new. Like God tells us in Ecclesiastes nothing is ever new under the sun. Thankfully God provides us with such rich and compelling stories to draw wisdom from -- such as the story of King Ahab and the Prophet Micaiah in 1Kings, Chapter 22. The backdrop is this. King Jehoshaphat from Judah is visiting King Ahab from Israel. They are trying to decide whether to go to war against Aram to recover the town of Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agrees but wants to hear what the Lord has to say first. So Ahab, a notoriously evil King who did not follow the Lord, called in his 400 prophets who all told him to go to battle and the Lord shall certainly deliver victory for him. Not that any of them actually heard from the Lord. Not that any of them really were prophets at all. They were in the business of telling Ahab what his itching ears wanted to hear. This is the same thing we see today in the modern church and outside of it as a direct result. People quick to preach about things they do not know about without having heard a word directly from the Lord at all. "Oh no -- you do not have to worry about sin. All you have to do is tithe correctly and all will be given into your hands. God wants to bless you. God wants to bless you. God wants to bless you. He is love -- walk in your inheritance!" Thankfully, Jehoshaphat knew nonsense when he heard it and he asked Ahab if there was an actual prophet of the Lord they could also inquire with and here was the response:
The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, "There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah." -- 1Kings 22: 8 (NLT)
Can you imagine? Shouldn't the only issue be whether or not he is hearing from the Lord? Whether it is trouble for him or not? Yet isn't that what we do today as well? "I hate going to see that preacher -- all he preaches is fire and brimstone." "Don't listen to that preacher -- he takes himself too seriously." "Why do they keep talking about God's wrath; why can't they speak about the love?" Allow me to proffer the notion that does not get recognized enough. Preaching the wrath of God IS preaching love. There are two types of people in the word beloved -- those going to heaven and those who are on the outside looking in. Let's deal with the unsaved first. How in the world can I claim to love them and not warn them about the wrath that is coming? I preach the coming wrath because I love them. If someone I claim to love is driving off a cliff is it my job to tell them there is a cliff coming or to hold their hands on the way down and tell them everything is going to be ok when it clearly is not? Please -- do not tell me you love someone but refuse to let them know that there is a heaven and a hell and in which direction they are heading.
The second group is the saved -- and I mean the truly saved. Not those that said a prayer and continued to live as carnally as the world. I mean those who have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those with a genuinely regenerate heart who now chase after the things of God. For those, the issue of salvation is over. There is not a worry about heaven and hell but there are two important considerations when it comes to sin. The first is that there are levels of rewards in heaven based up what it is that we have done here on earth:
Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. -- Revelation 22: 1012 (NIV)
While this is not preached on nearly enough it is important to not ever forget. We are not supposed to get saved and then hunker down until Jesus comes. God has works set out for us to do according to the Bible. But secondly, sin is also what ruins our day to day life as well. It is what separates us from God in this life even if we are heaven-bound. It is what causes us to fail and to fall. It is what causes the adultery and divorce. Sin is the lurking virus no one wants to talk about. The cross took care of our destination -- not our walk. Our righteousness is still but filthy rags before a holy God so please -- do not preach that we have the righteousness of Christ so we do not have to worry about sin. That is straight from the pits of hell. Either way, the person is still driving off a cliff. For the unsaved it is a cliff that leads to eternal separation from God. For the saved it ends up with ruined life here one earth instead of the abundant life Jesus came to bring us. Regardless, I am not holding anyone's hand on the way down. I am going to recommend turning the wheel and avoiding the cliff.
That is what the Prophet Micaiah did. He not only told the king not to go to war but told him that God showed him how a spirit was using the 400 prophets to lie to him to entice him to go to war with Aram so that he could be killed! When you hear these days people preaching that sin is something we shouldn't worry about, or how the Ten Commandments do not matter, or how it's all grace and mercy now -- realize that there are still spirits today as well. The enemy's number one goal after preventing people from coming to know God is to make the church impotent for the kingdom work that is still left to be done. What better way than to set believers up to fall and fail by ignoring the very sin nature that can undo them in the blink of an eye? King Ahab arrests Micaiah for telling the truth and that is where we find the key verse. In front of Jehoshaphat and the 400 false prophets Micaiah declares the kings doom -- mark my words!
In the days of the weeping prophet Jeremiah, we also saw similar problems. The false teachers and prophets were constantly telling people things were ok when they were not. They were telling people what they wanted to hear instead of what thus sayeth the Lord. Here was how Jeremiah described it:
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. -- Jeremiah 6: 14 (NIV)
The NLT version refers to the wound as mortal. Our condition remains serious beloved. If we are unsaved it is considerably worse because our eternal destination hangs in the balance. But even if we are assured of our salvation -- our condition remains critical. We have an enemy trying to kill us, a world that is constantly pulling us away from God and a flesh nature that is all too willing to disobey God. We have too much preaching that is akin to placing a Hello Kitty Band-Aid on a wound that requires a tourniquet. Too much preaching by people who are not called, or do not take what they do seriously enough. They say peace peace when there is no peace. Even Christ said do not assume that I have come to bring peace:
"Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. "I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!' -- Matthew 10: 34-36 (NLT)