Sometimes you must think, Chris, why do you do this? The "choir" already knows the things you say, and the others just quit reading at the title. And it's interesting that I was just about to start this when I saw on my list a post from my friend Shirley at Thinking Out Loud. One of the things she observed in meditation on the goal of the Ten Commandments was the meaning of "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Somehow, we have been distracted from the true meaning of this by an injunction on cursing. The truth means more; it means that when you take of the Lord's Word, to not do it vainly; to do it in such a way that bears fruit.
So, again you ask, how do you bear fruit when the congregation is in the know and the sinners won't listen? Well, to the second, my job is to put the Word out there for them; what they do or don't do with it is between them and God; I have to be faithful to what I am called. But the congregation? This week I got six good reasons to "preach to the choir". (Remembering I am a part of said choir.)
First was Monday, 2 Timothy 4. Paul tells Timothy, Preach the Word! And warns him that along will come/have come/are coming those who will not accept sound doctrine; as Shirley said, a good example (and one I've been hammering at) is the concept of hell, and the idea "a loving God wouldn't etc., etc." Preaching has to start with sound doctrine, and not leaving things like judgment out "because it might offend someone." From Matthew 7:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Paul goes on to explain it is better to preach the sound doctrine and turn people away than to tell them what they want to hear and have GOD turn them away.
On Tuesday, we find Saul's ignominious death in I Chronicles 10. And the end of the chapter told us why he died such an ignoble death- he failed to inquire of the Lord. He went to his preacher (Samuel), to a medium, and relied on his own foolish judgment, but never once do you see him truly inquire of the Lord. Hearing a preacher teaching sound doctrine IS inquiring of the Lord- if you take the next step, and make it personal between you and God. Think about it, ask questions, and then ask God how to apply it to yourself. The alternative, for Saul anyway, wasn't pretty.
Wednesday took me to I John 2, where he described antichrists. Not the scary Nicolai Carpathia types of Tim LaHaye, but the ones that come "from among us" - alleged Christians using the Word to their own purposes, to spread hate rather than the mercy of God. These people, whatever goal they THINK they have, only serve to do one thing- cause people to deny the Son. Whether by watering down the Gospel, morphing Jesus into Mr. Rodgers or Dr. Doolittle, or trying to add to the Word with human logic, they create an atmosphere of following a Jesus that just doesn't exist. The job of solid preaching is to "make manifest" these people- to expose them to the light of truth- so that the dread consequences of denying God's Son do not come upon us.
Thursday, we go to Judges 2, where the last generation that saw the Mighty Hand of God got their last visit from The Angel Of The Lord (AKA Jesus). They had failed to obey God, and as a result several tribes of Canaanites and Amorites remained where they dwelt. (Here come the flaming atheists claiming God promoted genocide; but remember a) this is a different world; b) these people were among the most depraved the world had ever seen since the Flood, and were under God's judgment; and c)the application to us is not living as those who are against God do. ) At any rate, the Angel's message was, because you have not obeyed, not removed their temptations from your midst, they "will be a thorn unto you." The congregation needs the preacher's sound doctrine to remind them why to obey- and when they are not.
Friday (which was actually an hour-and-a-half into Saturday due to a birthday gathering) brought us to the far end of Mark 1, where we find Jesus confronting a man with an unclean spirit IN THE SYNAGOGE!!! How did their "church" end up with someone like that? Because their teachers did not teach with authority- the authority that only comes from sound doctrine. Because Jesus taught with authority, "not like the priests and scribes did," not only were the people astonished, but the unclean spirit was exposed. Why preach to the congregation? Because without sound doctrine, they become just a cross-section of the world.
Finally, (later) Saturday morning, we come to Genesis 3- the story of the Fall. Adam and Eve hid from God, which is silly on the surface because God always know where you are. But God LET them hide- even called out looking for them. What, He couldn't find them? Not likely. But the lesson here is, they received the doctrine they "wanted" to hear (from the serpent) and as a result, hid from God. They hid in fig leaves, we hide in whatever makes us feel good, whether it be a safe, vain ministry, or telling ourselves, "Hey, I went to church", or the idea that God is the big friendly man in a beard sitting on a puffy cloud pointing to us. But what did God do? He let them hide. God will find those who diligently seek Him; but He won't "find" those who hide from Him.
Note that each of these bore a consequence. Those who endured false doctrine were in danger of falling away. Those that didn't inquire of the Lord on their own failed miserably. Those that heard antichrists denied the source of their salvation. Those who failed to obey faced "thorns" that made it even harder to obey. KEEP THAT POINT IN MIND! Those who did without God's authority saw their gatherings corrupted. And most important, those who hid themselves found themselves lost.
So you see, "taking the Name of the Lord" has two dimensions. I have taken it to you, and it is not in vain for me because I pointed you in the direction of sound doctrine. Now, it's up to you to take it from me. Will you take His word and make something of it? Or do you take it in vain?