Jeremiah 23:16 “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.”
To claim to speak for God and not deliver the word of God to those you speak to is an evil beyond calculation. For a Christian leader who has the Truth to deliver something else is a greater sin than the idolatry of people who have never heard of the one true God. That is what God says in Jeremiah 24:13-14. The sins of Samaria were great in its idolatry but the sins of the prophets of Jerusalem, who had the truth was even greater:
13 In the prophets of Samaria
I saw a disgusting thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a more shocking thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from wickedness;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.
What a treasure God has given those whose calling it is to teach and preach! We have at our fingertips that which will never perish, even after the heavens and the earth do. We have that which will endure forever. We have what directs people to eternal life with the triune God forever. And to take that great treasure and misinterpret it to the detriment of the people we are teaching it to, is a great evil. We in the west who preach and teach are without excuse. We have multiple Bibles, electronic and print resources that some believers in the world can only dream of ever coming into contact with. We have books, web sites, Bible translations of every description, commentaries, concordances, topical Bibles, lexicons, dictionaries, sermons of great preachers. The list seems endless. We need to hear James 3:1 ringing in our ears:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
What the prophets of Jeremiah’s day were doing with the rich resources they had was to speak a false message that God did not give them, in order to make people feel better about their lot. They taught that God would not judge. There was no need to worry. Everything was going to turn out fine.
Nay sayers are hard to listen to and we would be very wise not to constantly maintain a negative message. But the Gospel is Good News because there is very bad news. The soul that sins shall die. Those who do not believe will perish. The wages of sin is death. To preach or teach in such a way that this necessary message is not known or understood is to commit a great wickedness. It gives people hope when they have none. It makes people feel like they have nothing to worry about when in fact they are in mortal danger. It is to fiddle while Rome burns. God judges sinners.
God will hold all people everywhere accountable for their actions. And the only way that anyone is able to endure such scrutiny and live, is if they are trusting Jesus Christ to save them from their sins. This needs to be taught. The cross of Jesus means nothing if we do not see that He is taking the punishment for sin. He is receiving from the Father what we deserve.
The judgement of God upon sin and sinners is very much denied by many calling themselves Christian today. That Jesus was being punished for the sins of others is denied as well. It sounds so appealing. It makes us feel so safe. It is very soothing to a world caught up in sin. And it is a lie.
We do not have the option of making the message of the Gospel more palatable to the 21st century mind. Our task is to deliver the truth. It is a message that cannot be improved upon. It is a message of great Good News. It should have our hearts and minds captured by its wonder. When it does, we will tell it and be glad for the opportunity.