Some preachers have felt the need to modernize their preaching. Influenced by the “feel good about yourself” gospel of Self-Love that is so popular today, some have begun to accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative. As a result, some among us are openly advertising something called “Positive Christianity.” Now, before I get branded by some of you who read this as a “promoter of negativism,” let me say that I am not against preaching what is commonly referred to as the positive aspects of the gospel of Christ. God forbid! What I am against, however, is the careless and erroneous way in which some have divided God’s Word. Frankly, I do not believe that dividing God’s Word into different parts, one part promoting “Positive Christianity” and the other “Negative Christianity” is what the apostle Paul had in mind in 2 Timothy 2:15. In truth, God’s Word is neither “positive” nor “negative.” It is, instead, both positive and negative. In other words, it’s a total package. Take the Ten Commandments for instance. The “Positive Ten Commandments,” and you realize, of course, that there is no such thing, would only involve remembering the sabbath and honoring one’s father and mother. All eight of the remaining commandments would either be de-emphasized, or totally eliminated. So, in theory, the end result of Positive Ten Commandmentism would be an idolatrous, polytheistic, murderous, adulterous, thieving, lying, covetous people who would, without shame, take the name of the only true and living God in vain. Furthermore, I think it would be safe to surmise that such a people, in addition to soon forgetting the sabbath, would also have no respect for their mothers and fathers. So, so much for Positive Ten Commandmentism.
The careful student of God’s Word knows that love (which incidentally is something most people would identify as “positive”) cannot really be understood without considering the subject of sacrifice (something incidentally that many people today would consider “negative”). Likewise, salvation (a very “positive” subject) must be understood within the context of repentance (which is something most people today think is very “negative”). Consequently, when it comes to the religion of Christ, what is of ultimate importance is not whether something is positive or negative. Instead, what is important is whether it is true or false, right or wrong! In reality, whether one preaches the positive and de-emphasizes the negative, or preaches the negative and de-emphasizes the positive, in either case, one is not declaring “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and this is exactly my point. In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, the apostle Paul charged Timothy to:
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. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (NKJV).
One simply cannot miss it. Paul did not say that God’s Word must be accommodated to every new concept that comes along. What he said was “Preach the word.” Therefore, although I’ve said it before, I will now say it again: There is obviously something very suspicious about a group of Christians who turn their sail to every wind that blows. And make no mistake about it, such will be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, [who] in cunning craftiness...lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). Enamored with “Positive Thinking” as taught by Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Og Mandino, Norman Vincent Peale et al, some have now begun to accommodate certain scriptures to the idea of positive thinking. Space does not permit me to list these, but one ought to carefully consider these brethren’s prooftexts. In doing so, I will discover that these so-called prooftexts are nothing more than pretexts for unscriptural teaching. Quite frankly, the false concept that “anything the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve” is silliness gone to seed. An even more descriptive term for this doctrine may be found in Paul’s use of the word “dung” to describe those things he considered to be worthless in Philippians 3:8.
As Christians, we have been provided with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Consequently, the Christian is called upon to out-live, out-think, and out-die the pagans and secularists around about him. The Christian’s mind, a mind that is renewed, pure, prepared, spiritually sensitive, and self-controlled, is the complete antithesis of a worldly mind (cf. Romans 12:1-2). What is the key to all this? Simply stated, it is this: The Christian’s mind does not trust in its own powers, but in the power of God (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). As more and more Christians clamor for “Positive Christianity,” it will become increasingly more difficult for preachers attempting to preach the whole counsel of God to maintain their integrity. It will be much easier to go with the flow of opinions, values and fads of the masses. But thank God for hardheaded preachers who, like the prophets of old, will not bow or bend to the totems of this world. In Ezekial 3:8-9, the prophet, who has been sent by God to address a rebellious people, was told by God:
Behold I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house (NKJV).
Thank God for hardheaded preachers who do not have to test the winds of public sentiment be- fore they decide what they are going to preach. Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “Preach the word!” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “be ready in season and out of season.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who will “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Thank God for hardheaded preachers who, with God’s help, will save not only themselves, but those that hear them (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16).
Josiah Holland, who lived in the 19th century, knew the remedy for our troubles when he prayed thus: God give us men. A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands; men whom the lust of office cannot buy; men who will not lie; men who will stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking; tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty and private thinking.
Real men, of course, are hard to find, and this has always been the case. It has been reported that in order to emphasize the difficulty of finding a man of integrity in ancient Athens, the Greek philosopher Diogenes lighted a lamp in the daylight and went about the streets of Athens in search of an honest man. But years before this alleged event, Jerusalem could have been saved if one man of integrity could have been found within the walls of the city (cf. Jeremiah 5:1). Even the apostle Paul recognized the difficulty of finding a real man when he said, “For all seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Philippians 2:21).
It is my prayer that God will continue to bless us with hardheaded preachers who won’t shy away from using “great plainness of speech” in their preaching and teaching (2 Corinthians 3:12). However, it must be remembered that this is a two-way street, for if we ever becomes like those who delight in slaying all God’s plain speakers, even when we can only do it one preacher at a time, then we can be sure that God will eventually send his hardheaded preachers elsewhere. May God bless us all, collectively and individually, as we do His will.