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LET’S BANISH A CRITICAL SPIRIT!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, February 21, 2009

“Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion [authority], and speak evil of dignities” (Jude 8).


This was Jude’s description of false Christians who have “crept in [to the churches] unawares.” They come in when we are not on the lookout for them. Peter described them as those that “despise government [authority]” (II Peter 2:10).

I believe that there are far too many of these men in our churches today. But they did not learn to despise authority from Christ. He was always courteous to those in authority even when He disagreed with them. He did not rail at the Sanhedrin or the high priest when they arrested Him, nor did He “despise government” by railing against Pontius Pilate. Instead He treated these men in leadership positions with all due respect because of the positions they held, which He believed were God-given. Neither He nor the Apostle Paul made any railing accusation against Tiberius Caesar, who was one of the most diabolical leaders to head the Roman government of antiquity. In fact, Paul didn’t criticize Nero, who was even worse than Tiberius. Instead Paul famously said,

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God…and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1-2).

A constantly critical attitude toward those in authority, both in the government and in the churches, is not a sign of high spirituality. It is a sign of carnality. It is not the way Jesus or Paul behaved.

Take, for instance, our new President, Barack Obama. There are some in the churches who revile him and rail against him, even though he has been in office only a short time. How different this is from the exhortation of Paul that

“prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority”
      (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Thus, Paul’s prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks were made for Nero, who was little more than a crazed tyrant. I reserve the right to criticize President Obama for supporting the abortion blood-bath, but farther than that I dare not go in the light of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in I Timothy 2:1-2. Let’s pray for him and let’s give the new President a chance to do right before we start hurling stones at him!

How different from Jesus and Paul are those of the twentieth century who, as Dr. A. W. Tozer said, “gleefully exposed the weaknesses of everyone in history that had enjoyed a reputation for godliness or even plain decency. The Puritans were shown to be hard, cruel men who hated the human race; the Pilgrim Fathers were tried and found guilty of downright hypocrisy. Washington [to them] was a whisky sot and Lincoln a neurotic who used religion only as a convenient cloak. And so it was with everyone and everything else associated with [the Christian] religion” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., The Price of Neglect, Christian Publications, 1991 edition, compiled by Harry Verploegh, p. 79).

Dr. Tozer was called “A Twentieth Century Prophet” in his own lifetime. He gave a biting description of those who “despise” authority. Sadly this rebellion can be seen even among some who were once Fundamentalists. Last Thursday night Dr. Cagan showed me a brief video clip, widely seen on many computers, of a once Fundamental Baptist preacher mimicking the voice and mannerisms of an old-fashioned evangelist who has been dead for many years. He imitated the famous old preacher’s voice, and sang one of his songs parodying the old man’s singing and preaching in a viciously mocking way. Everyone with him on the video laughed heartily as this modern preacher ended his parody of the old evangelist’s preaching and singing. It made me feel sick. It reminded me of the way “Saturday Night Live” mocked Nixon and Ford when they were in office. It was a disgraceful mockery of a good old preacher who prayed much, and whose preaching and singing, even in extreme old-age, was a blessing to thousands of people, including me. It was clear that this mocking preacher had copied the world-spirit of our age, and “despises the authority” the old evangelist once held in the churches, and still holds in the minds of many right-thinking people. I was deeply offended by this “progressive” preacher’s assault on the aged evangelist. But the evangelist is now in Heaven and cannot be harmed by mockery now. It is the mocking preacher who has unwittingly harmed himself. How can the people in his church respect him after seeing his rude, unseemly parody of a man who was a real saint of God?

Young people, there are men like that all around us, both preachers and laymen, who take great delight in tearing down other preachers. There are men in many pulpits who slander other preachers mercilessly. They seem to take delight in tearing other preachers down and pointing out their failings and weaknesses. When I hear someone doing that, I back off and turn a deaf ear to their gossip mongering. My mother used to say, “A dog that will bring a bone, will carry a bone.” In plain English, that means a man who brings a slanderous report about another preacher to you, will take back a slander against you to others. Never put your full trust in a gossip monger!

The lesson we should draw is this: there are an awful lot of Christians, even preachers, who don’t realize (or don’t want to realize) that badmouthing another pastor or Christian behind his back is a sin. I try to avoid all this as much as possible. Even when I criticize Charles Finney, I am careful to criticize his theology and practice, and not the man himself. The older I get the wiser I think that is.

Let the sin of backbiting not be named among us in our church. If you have something critical to say of a brother, say it to his face and get the matter settled between you and him.

Preaching today is a terribly difficult profession. The world, the flesh and the devil do all they can to discourage and trouble preachers. Let us not join the worldly crowd and contribute to the preacher’s problems by an improperly critical spirit. Let us try our best to be co-workers with the preacher, and help him in his ministry. No preacher is perfect. But his flaws can often be overcome if the people love him and listen to his teaching.

I am teaching at this time on the fact that we must show real love toward unsaved people when they come to our church. The same rules should apply to them as to preachers we know. What I am preaching on this subject is Biblical. Hear me and think deeply about what I say. And then love the lost when they come through the doors of our church on Sunday. Don’t just drop your eyes and forget that I said this. Take it to heart. Pay special attention to every lost soul who comes through the door of our church tomorrow, in the Sunday services. Treat them as Jesus would treat them. Let the love of Christ be seen and felt by them. Go out of your way to make them feel wanted, and at home in our church. That is what I am teaching tonight. Please don’t criticize what I have said, or make a joke out of it, or refuse to put what I have said into practice. Their eternal souls may be lost if you do. They must feel that you love and care for them, or they will not stay in our church long enough for the preaching of the Gospel to penetrate their hearts and draw them to a real conversion in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul said,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [Christian love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy [preaching], and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [Christian love], I am nothing” (I Corinthians 13:1-2).

And Jesus said,

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Let us have a few moments of prayer for God to help us show forth the love of Christ to those who are lost when they come to church tomorrow morning and evening to our Sunday services.

(END OF SERMON)
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