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通往灭亡的康庄大道

作者:道格·巴契勒 牧师日期:2018-06-02 6:52:32浏览数:1405
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中文:

奇妙真相:美国加州公路管理局发现,在笔直平坦的高速公路上行驶,司机很容易因犯困而偏离车道。安全起见,管理局在公路上增设了隆起带——当司机偏离车道,轧上这些隆起带时,会发出巨大的噪音,从而唤醒昏昏欲睡的司机,避免发生意外。如今,美国大多数地区都设有路拱,借以唤醒沉睡的司机,免遭厄运。

“现今你去,在他们面前将这话刻在版上,写在书上,以便传留后世,直到永永远远。因为他们是悖逆的百姓,说谎的儿女,不肯听从耶和华训诲的儿女。他们对先见说:‘不要望见不吉利的事;’对先知说:‘不要向我们讲正直的话,要向我们说柔和的话,言虚幻的事。你们要离弃正道,偏离直路,不要在我们面前,再提说以色列的圣者。’”(赛30:8-10)

曾有一位传教士,向南太平洋岛屿的原住民传福音。几年后,他决定回美国休假九个月,并计划去拜访几个教会,为小岛上的事工筹集资金。

回美国之前,他说服了岛上一位接受信仰不久的酋长与他同行。这位酋长健硕魁梧,再配上一口闪耀着珍珠般光泽的洁白牙齿,更是显得仪表堂堂。他简直就是布道成果的活招牌。传教士坚信有了他的同行,北美的教友一定会慷慨奉献。

抵达美国后,传教士就带着酋长马不停蹄地走访教堂。除了展示布道工作的幻灯之外,他还领着一位身着艳丽土著服饰的酋长在教堂走动。听了这位异教酋长归主的见证,信徒们惊讶不已。不过在旅途中,为避开围观者的异样目光,传教士让酋长入乡随俗,穿西装,吃西餐。要知道,为酋长粗糙、宽厚的大脚找双合适的鞋子十分不易。

九个月的旋风之旅结束了,西方的生活方式让这位波利尼西亚的酋长付出了沉重的代价。由于穿了鞋子,那双大脚不再粗糙;由于缺乏锻炼,肌肉变得松驰;由于不习惯甜食和精加工的食品,酋长的牙齿开始脱落,而且频繁受到胃病的困扰。

回到家乡时,岛上的人们几乎认不出他来了,“舒适的生活”险些害死他。

婴儿食品

小麦碾成精粉之后,83%的营养物质会流失——包括纤维、大部分维生素E和其它21种营养物,只剩下了淀粉。由于营养成分大量流失,必须人为添加一些化合物,如:硫胺素(维生素B1)、核黄素(维生素B2)、烟酸(维生素B3)和铁元素。由于精加工的面包营养成分所剩无几,美国有35个州要求必须在白面粉中添加营养素之后才能出售。

与精加工的小麦一样,舒适的生活会导致身体虚弱;属灵的食物若缺少“纤维”也会对教会造成影响:信徒灵性软弱,如同吃奶的婴孩。医生一再强调,富含纤维的粗粮能促进健康。我们摄取的灵粮也是如此。可惜,许多已经能吃“粗粮”的基督徒,却仍停留在“吃奶”的阶段,因为“粗粮”令他们恼火。

“看你们学习的工夫,本该作师傅,谁知还得有人将上帝圣言小学的开端另教导你们,并且成了那必须吃奶,不能吃干粮的人。凡只能吃奶的都不熟练仁义的道理,因为他是婴孩;惟独长大成人的才能吃干粮;他们的心窍习练得通达,就能分辨好歹了。”(来5:12-14)

悦耳之词

便利店、电梯、电话和遥控器正渐渐削弱人类大脑与身体的机能,在北美尤为突出。既然事事都能一键解决,何须再耗费精力亲力亲为?

在追求舒适、安逸、称心之生活的同时,我们的语言表达也受到了影响。例如,某电视节目原本应当标示:“涉及血腥暴力的恐怖情节”,但为使观众听起来舒服,便改成:“本节目不适合敏感型观众,敬请留意。”其实,营销人员很清楚,越是这样声明,人们越是密切关注。有些影片注明:“成熟之人观看的影片(成人片)”。而他们本该标以警告:“本节目含有色情及暴露的不正当情节。”(“性变态”竟被称作“成熟”,这是真的“成熟”吗?)

想必大家都听过这样的警告:教会在世界中,却又不属世界!(参 约17:16-18)可悲的是,世界正严重影响着我们的教会。追求安逸的潮流,正在感染上帝的子民。快餐时代导致每个人只想听“简短的证道”(打了折扣的福音。一位朋友曾说,“打了折扣的福音造就了打了折扣的基督徒”)。许多牧师为了保住自己的声望,便迎合爱听好话的教友。这些牧者也像穿梭于不同的地区,对选民阿谀奉承,争取选票的政客一样。

现如今,有些牧师惯用一些迎合人心、讨人喜欢的教义牧养群羊,岂不知这些教义像毒品一样,危害着信徒的灵命健康。来看一看他们的歪理邪说:

——只要是祝谢过的食物,就可以随意享用(哪怕是不洁净的);

——只要有足够的信心,就能心想事成,安逸度日;

——堕胎并非真的杀死了未出生的婴儿,只是“终止妊娠”;

——同性恋不是罪,只是一种另类的生活方式;

——只要在耶稣里得享安息,就不必遵守安息日的诫命;

——只要向上帝祷告认罪,就能得救,永不灭亡。

还有一个最流行、最致命的谎言:我们继续留在罪中也能得救,因为耶稣来并不是将我们从罪恶里拯救出来,而是在罪中拯救我们。

教会对世俗的动态颇为关注,并不遗余力地与世俗持有相同的观念。结果,信徒对上帝的圣言便越来越漠不关心。

名存实亡

魔鬼竭力让人灵性沉睡,免得我们意识到自己的危险而转离罪恶。他担心人会发现罪的致命性——“叫罪因着诫命更显出是恶极了”(罗7:13),转而寻找一位救主。

祖父抽了很多年“好彩牌”香烟。虽然有过几次戒烟的念头,但身体状况尚可,就没有动真格。终于有一天,他到医院做个简单的手术。邻床的患者由于抽烟得了癌症,切除了喉头,所以喉咙上留下一个洞,而这个喉洞里就插着一根“好彩牌”香烟。看到这一幕,祖父震惊了。他终于明白了吸烟的严重危害,于是扔掉香烟,再也没有抽。

倘若医生害怕说出真相会令病人不快,明明是皮肤癌,却谎称是皮疹。这样的医生绝不称职。同样,作为基督徒,要想对症下药,就必须对自己做出准确的诊断。

“朋友加的伤痕,出于忠诚;仇敌连连亲嘴,却是多余。”(箴27:6)传道人和教友都有责任本着爱心如实地警告世人:有一个天国要追求,有一个地狱要逃避——执意活在罪中必定灭亡。

“人子啊!我照样立你作以色列家守望的人。所以你要听我口中的话,替我警戒他们。我对恶人说:‘恶人哪!你必死。’你以西结若不开口警戒恶人,使他离开所行的道,这恶人必死在罪孽之中,我却要向你讨他丧命的罪。倘若你警戒恶人转离所行的道,他仍不转离,他必死在罪孽之中,你却救自己脱离了罪。”(结33:7-9)

时日无多,基督复临迫在眉睫。在此紧要关头,我们岂能宣扬平安稳妥的信息?每一篇证道都该充满力量与紧迫感。“你要大声喊叫,不可止息;扬起声来,好像吹角。向我百姓说明他们的过犯;向雅各家说明他们的罪恶。”(赛58:1)

耶稣预言末时的征兆之一乃是:教会在柔声吟唱撒但的摇篮曲:“平安了!稳妥了!在罪中安心度日吧!”

“人正说平安稳妥的时候,灾祸忽然临到他们。如同产难临到怀胎的妇人一样;他们绝不能逃脱。”(帖前5:3)我曾以为这节经文是针对世人而言,或许使徒保罗是在警告我们末后教会的境况!

“这话甚难,谁能听呢?”

为了拯救生灵,耶稣曾多次讲说严厉的话。为此,也不止一次有大批的追随者离祂而去。 “祂的门徒中有好些人听见了,就说:‘这话甚难,谁能听呢?’……从此,祂门徒中多有退去的,不再和祂同行。”(约6:60,66)

说到这里,我不得不引用《喜乐的泉源》的一段话:“耶稣固不隐瞒一句真实的话,但说时,都存着爱心。祂与人交接,都是非常机警、谨慎、周到,时刻流露同情体贴之意,没有一点鲁莽的行为。祂绝不无故说严厉的话,绝不使敏感的人受无谓的痛苦,绝不指摘人的弱点。祂全讲实话,但每次都是存着爱心讲的。祂揭发假冒为善与不信不义的行为,但每次这样严责的时候声音中常含着悲恸。”(《喜乐的泉源》第1章)

耶稣严厉的话语,绝非是要伤害或冒犯听众,乃为拯救我们,帮助我们结出圣灵的果子。“凡管教的事,当时不觉得快乐,反觉得愁苦;后来却为那经练过的人结出平安的果子,就是义。”(来12:11)

假先知

彼得·马歇尔生动地描述了20世纪的基督徒,“他们就像深海潜水员,身着专业的潜水服,勇敢地走向浴缸,拔掉了出水孔的塞子。”

耶稣警告我们,末后必有许多假先知起来,宣扬迎合人心的道理,迷惑多人(太24:11)。所以,我们必须能分辨真伪。然而,当众人在康庄大道上迅速下滑时,我们却要咬紧牙关,忠实地攀登那条笔直、崎岖之途。这自然需要相当的勇气!

列王记上记载了一个故事,戏剧性地说明世人大都爱听好话,而上帝忠实的信徒却要不惜任何代价宣扬真理。

以色列的昏君亚哈想从亚兰国夺回本属于自己的城镇——基列的拉末。但他需要外援共同对抗强大的亚兰军队。于是他邀请犹大王约沙法同仇敌忾。

约沙法愿意与亚哈联合行动,但他认为必须先求问上帝。亚哈已于多年前离弃上帝,转去敬拜异教神巴力,于是他叫来了其所所雇佣的400名假先知,让他们说预言。二王坐在宝座上,这些自命不凡的异教先知们大声说,“上去攻取基列的拉末吧,你们必得胜利!”这真是一场令人振奋的誓师大会。

然而,约沙法对巴力先知的预言表示质疑。这群人总是奉承国王,只说王爱听的话。约沙法要听一听上帝真先知怎么说。亚哈听后心绪不宁的说:上帝的先知只有一位,名叫米该雅。又说,“只是我恨他,因为他指着我所说的预言,不说吉语,单说凶言。”(王上22:8)尽管如此,在约沙法的催促下,亚哈只好勉强派人将米该雅带来。

王的士兵对米该雅说,“看哪,众先知异口同声向王说吉言,愿你也像他们一样(只讲迎合人心的好话!)”。米该雅说:“永生上帝对我说什么,我就说什么。”真是与众不同!竟然还有人敢实话实说而不计后果。

米该雅来到二王面前,勇敢地告诉亚哈:若与亚兰人争战,其必定阵亡。

此时,亚哈面临一个艰难的选择。该相信400位说吉语的巴力先知呢,还是相信这位讲凶言的上帝的先知?尽管亚哈清楚该怎么做,但他最终还是作了错误的决定。他又说服约沙法无视米该雅的警告,去听从巴力先知的预言并加入战斗。毕竟,一口怎能抵挡400多张嘴巴?

不过,为了以防万一,亚哈全副武装并躲在后方,以为这样就能免于一死。可惜,当这个邪恶的国王认识到上帝的话绝不落空时,已经为时晚矣。在战斗过程中,有一支箭恰巧射入亚哈的甲缝里,他因失血过多而死在了战车上。事实上,是假先知的阿谀奉承害死了他。

爱听恭维之辞的时代

著名布道家比利·辛地(Billy Sunday)的证道往往能一针见血地指出具体的罪,如酗酒。地方教会的领袖经常劝他收敛一下这种直言不讳的讲道方式。他们说,“辛地牧师,你总是用错误的方式梳理猫毛(意指:你的证道总是激怒听众)。”而这位著名的布道家回答,“我梳毛的方式是正确的,问题是猫需要转过身来(即听众需要回转归回上帝。)”

耶稣警告说,“人都说你们好的时候,你们就有祸了!因为他们的祖宗待假先知也是这样。”(路6:26)先知耶利米说:“虽向你说好话,你也不要信他们。”(耶12:6)

使徒保罗也说明爱听恭维话是末后教会的特征之一。信徒希望传道人讲体贴肉体、令人舒服、无需背负十字架的轻省道理。

“务要传道,无论得时不得时,总要专心;并用百般的忍耐,各样的教训,责备人、警戒人、劝勉人。因为时候要到,人必厌烦纯正的道理,耳朵发痒,就随从自己的情欲,增添好些师傅,并且掩耳不听真道,偏向荒渺的言语。”(提后4:2-4)

今日有许多基督徒渴望一种无需舍弃罪中之乐的宗教。为了迎合这等人,许多教会提供集市义卖、中奖游戏、健康理疗、以及宽慰人心的社会活动——唯独避谈脱离罪恶的救恩信息。他们的讲道就像失去锯齿的锯子,上帝利剑般的圣言被甜言蜜语取代了!

可悲的是,人们感觉在教堂里吃饱了糖蜜,入口甘甜,属灵的生命却仍旧疲弱多病。教会为这些爱听好话的信徒提供了一篇篇不疼不痒、取悦人心的证道。

一日,美国前总统亚伯拉罕·林肯去教堂参赴礼拜。回家途中,秘书问他是否喜爱刚才的证道。“不太喜欢!”秘书十分惊讶,因为大多数人都觉得当天的讲道人颇有恩赐。“为什么不喜欢他?”林肯回答:“因为他没有呼吁我去实践真理。”

上帝的真道始终会激发我们向前向上,并要求我们做出更为高尚的决定。一位著名的作者这样写道:

“讲道人应当毫无顾忌地宣讲圣经的真理,让真理刺透人心。我蒙指示,看到传道人之所以没有取得更大的成功,是因为害怕得罪人,担心自己不够礼貌,于是他们降低了真理的标准,甚至对复临信仰的特质闭口不谈。我看到上帝不能使这等人成功。我们务须宣明真理,并敦促人作出决定。当假牧人呼喊“平安了”并说“柔和的话”(赛30:10)时,上帝的仆人便要扬起声来,不可止息,并把结果交给上帝。”(《属灵的恩赐》卷二 pp.284-285)

避免灾难

“你若与官长坐席,要留意在你面前的是谁。你若是贪食的,就当拿刀放在喉咙上。不可贪恋他的美食,因为是哄人的食物。”(箴23:1-3)

那么,有哪些措施可以抵挡撒但糖衣炮弹式的诱惑?

1.以上帝的圣言来检验一切的教义。“人当以训诲和法度为标准,他们所说的若不与此相符,必不得见晨光。”(赛8:20)

2.乐意遵行上帝的旨意,不计后果!“人若立志遵着祂的旨意行,就必晓得这教训或是出于上帝,或是我凭着自己说的。”(约7:17)

3.绝不盲目信从受欢迎的道理。“不可随众行恶”。(出23:2)

4.保持灵粮的均衡,以上帝的话喂养自己。“你当竭力在上帝面前得蒙喜悦,作无愧的工人,按着正意分解真理的道.”(提后2:15)

几年前,某中国人买了一台显微镜。起初,他兴致勃勃地观察花朵和羽毛,并对放大数百倍后的奇观惊叹不已。但有一天,他透过显微镜看到家中贮藏的水果上面爬满了微生物,而这水果又是他最爱吃的。于是烦乱之余,他拿起石头砸碎了显微镜。原因是显微镜暴露了那水果的真实面目,让他看到了上面的虫子,而他又不想放弃心爱的水果。

这也是我们面临的挑战。要么把自己置于上帝圣言的审查之下,并允许祂除掉那些虫子;要么把祂律法的显微镜挪开,不去聚焦自己的缺点,却听从假先知的无稽之谈。

上帝渴望我们能深入了解自己真正的需要。“你们总要自己省察有信心没有,也要自己试验。”(林后13:5)愿我们真诚地回应:“上帝啊!求祢鉴察我,知道我的心思;试炼我,知道我的意念;看在我里面有什么恶行没有,引导我走永生的道路。”(诗129:23,24)


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英文:

The Smooth Road to Destruction

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: The California highway department noticed that on long, smooth stretches of highway, drivers were falling asleep and running off the road. So as a safety measure, they started adding line bumps to awaken sleeping motorists if they began drifting out of their lane. Most states now have these “drunk bumps” to keep drivers awake and alive.

Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:8–10).

A Protestant missionary in the South Pacific, after working among the indigenous population for several years, decided to return to the United States for a nine-month furlough. During this time, he planned to visit several churches to raise funds for the island mission.

He also persuaded a local chief, a recent convert to the faith, to join him on the trip. The tall chief had an imposing presence — a muscular body accentuated by a broad, pearly white smile. The missionary knew that having this living trophy of his evangelistic efforts would greatly impress the church members in North America to give more generously.

When the two arrived stateside, the missionary took the chief from church to church. After showing slides of their mission station, he paraded the chief around in a colorful native costume. People were thrilled to hear about the chief’s conversion from paganism. But along the journey across America, to avoid the gawking of onlookers, the missionary dressed his friend in typical western garments and fed him American food. It was hard to find a pair of shoes wide enough for the burly chief’s rough feet.

After the nine-month whirlwind tour, the Western lifestyle had taken a toll on the Polynesian king. His feet softened from the shoes, and he lost definition and tone in his muscles from lack of exercise. Unaccustomed to the sweet, highly processed foods, the chief even began to lose his teeth and was plagued with frequent stomach ailments.

By the time he returned to his island home, many of his own villagers barely recognized him. “Soft living” had nearly killed him.

Baby Food

When whole wheat is milled into white flour, 83 percent of the nutrients are removed; mostly only starch remains. The fiber is also gone, along with most of the Vitamin E and 21 other nutrients. The flour that is left is so drained as a food that it must be fortified with chemically manufactured thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. In fact, refined bread is so depleted, 35 U.S. states require that white flour must be synthetically enriched to be sold.

In the same way that processed wheat and soft living can make us physically weak, spiritual food with refined fiber-less pabulum produces churches full of weak, infantile invalids. Physicians are constantly reminding us that we must have sufficient roughage and grist in our diets to be healthy. This also applies to our spiritual diet, yet many Christians have been gumming baby mush for so long they are offended by real food.

 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12–14 NKJV).

Tasty Terms

Especially in North America, our brains and bodies have been gradually weakened by convenience stores, elevators, auto dial, and remote control. Why expend the energy to do anything when it can all be done for you electronically?

This love of comfort, ease, and generally smooth living has affected our terms, as well as our time. A TV network explains, “This program is not for sensitive viewers” — instead of the truth: “This program is bloody, gruesome, grisly, and violent.” In fact, marketing executives know that as soon as they announce a program is not for sensitive viewers, the average person will pay even closer attention. You’ve also heard, “The following program is for mature audiences.” Of course, they really should warn that the “following program contains perverted, lustful, crude material.” (Is being perverted really “mature”?)

We’ve all heard the warning: The church is in the world, but the world is not supposed to be in the church! (See John 17:16–18.) Yet sadly, the fact is that the trends of the world are having an obvious influence on our church. The same longing for easy living is infecting God’s people. In this age of fast food, everyone wants a sermonette. (A friend of mine once said, “Sermonettes are for christianettes.”) In fact, to secure popularity among the clamoring of comfort-loving members, many pastors are falling into the same pattern as politicians who travel from one district to another telling everybody what they think will please them.

What are some of the smooth, popular, yet poisonous doctrines that some pastors are telling their flocks these days?

  As long as you pray over your food, you can eat or drink anything without consequences.

  If you have enough faith, you’ll be prosperous and comfortable.

  Abortion is not really killing an unborn baby; it’s simply “pregnancy termination.”

  Practicing homosexuality is not really a sin; it’s simply an alternate lifestyle.

  It’s not necessary to honor the Sabbath commandment literally as long as you are resting in Jesus.

  Once you say the sinner’s prayer, you’re saved and you can’t be lost.

The most prevalent and deadly lie: Jesus came to save us in our sins, rather than from them.

The church is striving so hard to be politically correct and sensitive to the world. The result is that we are becoming increasingly indifferent to God’s Word.

Deadly by Any Name

The devil wants to soothe our conviction to sleep, lest we should realize our peril and turn from our sins. He is afraid we will discover how lethal sin really is — “That sin through the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13) — and that we’ll start looking for a Savior.

My grandfather smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes for years. He made a few feeble attempts to quit, but his health was fair so he was not too alarmed and, therefore, not very motivated. But one day, he was admitted into the hospital for a simple procedure and was appalled when he saw the man in the bed next to him smoking those same cigarettes through a hole in his throat — his voice box had been removed from smoking-related cancer. When my grandfather understood how exceedingly dangerous smoking is, he threw away his cigarettes and never smoked again.

If a doctor is afraid to upset you so that he says that you have a touch of poison ivy when you really have skin cancer, he is not your friend. Likewise, as Christians, we should honestly diagnose ourselves if we are going to receive the appropriate treatment.

 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6). Ministers and church members have a responsibility to faithfully and lovingly warn the world that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun, that persisting to live a life of sin will end in irrevocable loss.

 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 33:7–9).

As we near the end of the world, seeing the imminence of the second coming, it is no time to proclaim smooth things. Every gospel presentation should be saturated with a sense of power and urgency. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).

Jesus has told us that one of the signs of the end is that the church will be softly singing Satan’s lullaby, “Peace, relax, rest in your sins.”

 For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NKJV). I used to believe this passage was speaking of the world, but perhaps Paul is warning us of conditions in the church!

The Truth Can Hurt

On many occasions, Jesus had to say some rough things for the purpose of saving souls. And on more than one occasion, droves of followers turned away from Him because of these challenging statements. “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? … From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:60, 66).

I cannot improve on this statement from the book Steps to Christ: Jesus did not suppress one word of truth, but He uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes” (p. 12).

The hard sayings of Jesus were never designed to simply wound or offend those hearing Him. He said them to save us and help us grow the fruits of the Spirit. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NKJV).

False Prophets

Peter Marshall, in his vivid style, describes 20th century Christians with these words: “They are like deep-sea divers encased in suits designed for many fathoms deep, marching bravely forth to pull plugs out of bathtubs.”

Jesus warns us that there will be many false prophets in the last days preaching smooth things (Matthew 24:11). That’s why we must know how to distinguish the true from the counterfeit. But to take the high, straight, and rough road of biting honesty when everyone else is sliding down the smooth road buttered with platitudes of popularity requires a rare breed of courage.

In the first book of Kings, we find a story that dramatically illustrates how most people in this world are hungering to hear smooth things, while God still has faithful followers who want to tell the truth at any cost.

Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, wanted to recapture his town of Ramothgilead from the Syrians, but he needed help to take on the mighty army of Syria. So he asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah to join him in his campaign against their common enemy.

Jehoshaphat was willing to join forces with Ahab, but he believed that they should first seek God’s counsel. Ahab had forsaken the Lord years earlier to worship the pagan god Baal, so he called in his 400 hired false prophets to come before the two monarchs and prophesy. As the two kings sat on thrones, all the pompous pagan prophets said, with a loud dramatic display, “Go and fight the Syrians and you will be victorious!” It was a very impressive pep rally.

Yet Jehoshaphat was skeptical. Seeing these were all prophets of Baal and knowing how they always told the king what he wanted to hear, he requested to hear from a prophet of the Lord. Ahab was disturbed at this request but said that there was one prophet of God left, called Micaiah — but he added, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (1 Kings 22:8). Nevertheless, at Jehoshaphat’s urging, Ahab reluctantly sent a servant to fetch Micaiah.

The messenger sent to bring Micaiah told him, “Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. [Preach smooth things!] And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.” Now there’s a novel thought — tell the truth regardless of the consequences. The prophet went to the kings and bravely told Ahab that if he went to fight the Syrians, he would surely die in the battle.

Now Ahab was faced with a tough decision. Should he believe 400 prophets of Baal who preached smooth things — or one lone prophet of the Lord with a rough message? Ahab made the wrong decision, even though he knew what was right. He persuaded Jehoshaphat to disregard the warnings of Micaiah and join him in a war promoted by Baal’s prophets. After all, how could one prophet be right over 400 others?

Still, just in case, Ahab thought he could outsmart the Lord by dressing in full armor and avoiding the front lines. But the wicked king learned too late that you can never escape the Word of God. In the battle, a stray arrow struck Ahab in the joints of his armor and he bled to death in his chariot. Ahab was killed by embracing the fatal flatteries of false prophets.

In the Age of Smooth Things

When the famous evangelist Billy Sunday would preach direct and powerful sermons against specific sins, such as the evils of alcohol, local leaders would often ask him to tone down his direct preaching. They would say, “Pastor Sunday, you are always rubbing the cat’s fur the wrong way.” But the famed evangelist would respond, “I am rubbing the cat’s fur the right way; the cat just needs to turn around.”

Jesus warns, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26 NKJV). Jeremiah put it this way: “Do not believe them, Even though they speak smooth words to you” (Jeremiah 12:6 NKJV).

Paul goes on to tell us that this dilemma will be one of the characteristics of the church in the last days. Church members will be looking for ministers to tell them what pleases their carnal nature, for smooth, easy religion without a cross.

 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:2–4 NKJV).

Many people in our church today want a form of religion without the power to overcome their sins. Many churches are accommodating them, providing bazaars, bingo, and soothing social programs — but avoiding a message of salvation from sin. Their sermons are like a saw with no teeth. The sharp sword of God’s Word is replaced with a rubber baby spoon!

Sadly, the people leave church feeling like they have been feasting on molasses. It is sweet to eat, but then everyone walks away sick. It’s all gooey, sloppy sermons for cotton candy Christians.

One Sunday, Abraham Lincoln was riding home from church in his carriage when his secretary asked him how he liked the sermon they just heard. “Not very much.” The secretary was surprised, because most people felt the preacher was very gifted. What was the problem? Lincoln answered, “He did not ask me to do anything great.”

The true word of God will always challenge us to press onward and upward to greater things. One great writer put it this way:

 Preachers should have no scruples to preach the truth as it is found in God’s word. Let the truth cut. I have been shown that why ministers have not more success is, they are afraid of hurting feelings, fearful of not being courteous, and they lower the standard of truth, and conceal if possible the peculiarity of our faith. I saw that God could not make such successful. The truth must be made pointed, and the necessity of a decision urged. And as false shepherds are crying, Peace, and are preaching smooth things, the servants of God must cry aloud, and spare not, and leave the result with God” (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, pp. 284, 285).

Avoiding Disaster

 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat” (Proverbs 23:1–3).

So what can you do to resist the temptation of gobbling up Satan’s sweet but deceptive delicacies?

1. Measure all teachings by the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

2. Be willing to do His will, regardless of the consequences! “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17).

3. Never accept a teaching just because it is popular. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2).

4. Place yourself under a well-balanced diet of spiritual teaching and feed your own soul with God’s Word. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Several years ago, a man living in China bought a microscope. At first he was thrilled with his new acquisition; he marveled looking at the wonders of flowers and feathers magnified hundreds of times. But one day he made the mistake of looking at his rice under the microscope and saw that it was crawling with tiny creatures. Rice was his favorite food. Very disturbed, the man smashed his microscope with a rock because it revealed his rice had bugs, but he didn’t want to give up his beloved staple.

We are all faced with a similar challenge today. We can either place ourselves under the scrutiny of God’s Word and allow Him to boil away the bugs — or we can turn the microscope of His law out of focus to blur our defects and listen to the fancy fables of false prophets.

God desires that we look deep to find out what we really want. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). May our sincere response be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).