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Be Part of the Solution:
Preach the Whole Counsel of God
by Andy de Ganahl
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
An honest assessment of what passes for Evangelicalism today is depressing. Individual Christians are vastly ignorant of the Scriptures, churches that teach verse-by-verse are few and far between, and whole denominations are apostatizing left and right. The reason for this massive downgrade is simple: once a departure from Scripture’s authority has commenced, total destruction is imminent.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4
We are even now living in a time when “Christians” desperately desire to have their ears tickled. They want people to tell them what they want to hear and have no stomach for anything outside of that small circle.
We conservatives are quick to point the finger at men like Joel Osteen or Steven Furtick who deny redemption from sin in favor of redemption of personal circumstances. The damning errors of Beth Moore and Rachel Hollis who preach empowerment instead of submission are easy pickings. These are ear-ticklers who have a vast following. But what are we doing about it?
The cancer of heresy is easy to spot once it manifests, but we must address the source of this sickness rather than only treating the symptoms. Generally speaking, we know the problem. We have departed from the Word of God. When you confuse the gospel of grace with personal wealth and individual independence, you’re clearly off the reservation. But where did this start? How far back do we have to go before we find the root of this problem? At what point did we become those who desire to have our ears tickled? It is my opinion that this sickness has infected many more of us than you may suspect.
What Is The Problem?
If you’re like me, you may associate that phrase “wanting to have their ears tickled” with heresy. Clearly what Paul is talking about is a gross misrepresentation of the gospel that might include things like:
- Denying Christ’s divinity
- Denying Christ’s humanity
- Denying the need of repentance
- Denying human inability in salvation
We could go on and point out the heresies of various cults and false teachers, but Paul’s point is broader than that. All that the phrase means is that people want to be told what they want to hear at the expense of everything else. This does not mean that the thing that people want to hear is necessarily contrary to Scripture.
Paul contrasts ear-tickling with sound doctrine. The Greek literally means healthy/wholesome teaching. It brings the idea of a complete and filling spiritual and theological diet. There is no room in a whole diet for sweets and fluff. But we also need more than only steak, only bread, only broccoli (Praise Him!).
Christians must hold certain convictions with an iron grip. There are many things that a true Christian will never budge on. But that iron grip must hold the totality of God’s Word and not only those convictions that we personally adore more than others.
Some beloved believers, while holding fast their biblical convictions, are ignorant to other important doctrines. Not only are they ignorant, they’re indifferent. They’ve no time for these matters nor do they desire to submit to them. They only wish to hear about the things that are most concerning to them.
We hot-blooded Protestants are eager to rally to the cry of Sola Scriptura! Yet that slogan means that we stand on the totality of Scripture alone, not that we only stand on our favorite passages and doctrines.
I’ve noticed a trend in the various posts that I write. The majority of my writing reflects a careful exposition of Scripture. I write like I preach, verse by verse. But occasionally it is necessary to address issues and topics in light of current events (case in point). Those topics are still presented and studied under the light of Scripture, but they remain topical in nature. It is these kinds of posts that receive the most attention, views, and shares on social media. This trend follows the trajectory of the larger problem. In general, the people of God are more interested in topical discussions that tickle their ears than enduring wholesome teaching. If I am honest, I find this discouraging.
If I were to write something rather controversial like the clear demonic influence of the Democratic National Convention or the apostasy of the Southern Baptist Convention, these sensational topics would likely be well circulated. But these are crumbs. The truths of these propositions are so utterly basic to the Christian faith. To feast on these things is to ensure spiritual starvation. To prefer sensational topics to steady exposition is the very definition of wanting to have our ears tickled.
Please understand me. I am not suggesting that pastors should not address topics that intersect with our surroundings. The sheep need to hear the clear voice of the Shepherd in all things. But it grieves me that there is a genuine lack of appetite for meat while the crumbs are quickly gobbled up. The true child of God loves all of the Word of God and not only the parts he finds to be sensational.
This is a problem of our own making. It has become the standard operating procedure of most churches to completely avoid vast portions of Scripture. We are grieved when we see churches adopt atheistic presuppositions about the origins of the universe and deny God’s literal creation. We marvel and shake our heads when we hear that churches no longer teach homosexuality is sin in both practice and desire. We are shocked when we see mainstream denominations promote blatant violations of 1 Timothy 2:12. But all of these are only the fruit. The root is much deeper.
We have been giving lip service to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture while practically denying that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and exhortation” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In plain language, the problem is a departure from the totality of Scripture.
What Is The Solution?
The solution is as simple as the problem. We must cling to and submit under the totality of Scripture. But what does that simple solution look like?
As a people, we must soundly reject the false understanding of doctrinal triage. We cannot survive another decade if we continue to treat the church like a 1950’s dinner party where are certain topics are off limits. There is simply no such thing as secondary or tertiary doctrines that pale in significance or even lapse into insignificance when placed alongside “primary” doctrines. The biblical authors never divide the Word of God into degrees of significance and neither should we. The solution to biblical fidelity will never be found in arbitrary divisions of biblical teaching. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.
As a church, our pulpits must proclaim the full counsel of God and not only the portions that are palatable. The teaching must be only the Word and must consist of the totality of the Word. Careful verse-by-verse exposition takes a very, very, very long time. It took John MacArthur almost 50 years to preach through the New Testament. But there are still 39 books in the Old Testament that need to be taught. Precise verse-by-verse exposition is the only way to preach. But that means the church must provide more than only the pulpit ministry. The people need the whole story. Their diet must contain the totality of God’s bounty. The solution to biblical fidelity requires the totality of the Bible to be taught. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.
As an individual, you must feast upon the totality of Scripture on a daily basis. There are many Bible reading programs out there. I have my opinion as to how to make your daily Bible reading and communion with God most profitable, but at the end of the day you must be familiar with your ENTIRE Bible. When is the last time you read through Leviticus, or Habakkuk, or Philemon, or (heaven forbid) Revelation? If you own a Bible and possess the ability to read, there is no excuse to be biblically malnourished. This is akin to starving do death with a full pantry. The solution to biblical fidelity requires that we are familiar with our Bibles. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.
Find a church: The individual Christian is never truly an individual but a member of a larger body. If you find yourself floating from church to church, or just not going to church, then repent of your sin and attach yourself to a faithful body. But be wise to what you attach yourself. There is only one thing that should look for: does this church teach the Bible? Sequential exposition is not just an effective way to preach, it is the only way to preach. The style of music, the quality of the sound system, and the presence (or lack of) children’s church does not amount to a hill of beans. Does the pastor open up his Bible, read it, explain it, and then exhort obedience to it? Find a church that does this, attach yourself to her, bless her and be blessed by her.
Redeem the time: There are portions of our day when our minds a free to wander. Whether we are driving to work, getting in a work out at the gym, or doing some mindless chore around the house. These are fantastic opportunities to engage the mind as well as the hands. We live in a day when we have countless resources full of sound teaching at our fingertips. Many faithful ministries have apps free to download on your phone (Search for Grace to You and S.L.J Institutes in the app store). Stop wasting your time with pointless and Godless music or simply allowing your mind to wander and feast upon the Word of God.
Be selective: Make a conscious decision between what’s good and what’s best. There are many teaching resources out there that seek to teach biblical truth, but are not necessarily teaching the Bible. Is it good to learn about God’s good creation and the scientific discoveries that assume Genesis 1 is true? Is it good to listen to men discussing current events from a biblical worldview? Absolutely. But what is best is to feast on the Word itself. Why waste your time listing about the Bible when you can hear the Bible being taught?
Apostasy and heresy are running rampant in our land and we are partly to blame. We have the audacity to be shocked at the fruit of unbelief when the root of biblical infidelity has been growing for decades. What did Paul command Timothy before he warned him? Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
He doesn’t say, preach the “primary” doctrines, or when it’s convenient. Preach the whole counsel of God and preach it all the time. There’s no room here for private convictions held within small circles. He says reprove (give correction), rebuke (call out sin), exhort (call for obedience) with great patience (people need to hear it over and over again) and instruction (TEACH IT!).
The problem with the church today is that we have neglected the totality of Scripture. As a result we must be chained to, immersed in, and fully submitted under all of Scripture.
This is our battle cry. This is what Sola Scriptura means. This is the path of fidelity. This is the solution to the problem. But if we’re not part of this solution, then we’re part of the problem.
Andy de Ganahl is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Burley Idaho. Andy’s burning desire is for the people of God to know the Word of God so that they can more accurately worship the God of the Word. You can check out If You’re Not Part of the Solution, Then You’re Part of the Problem (from which this guest post was excerpted), and other articles by Andy, at The Pastor’s Brief.