Sermon title: 

PAUL DIDN’T LEAVE OUT ANY PART OF GOD’S MESSAGE

Acts 20:18-31

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 18, 2021

 

 

There are a lot of “snowflakes” out there right now.

 

Yes, I know it’s the middle of July,

and the weather has actually been warmer than usual.

 

But the word “snowflake” came into use 5 years ago

to describe a generation of college students

who need to be shielded

from any controversy, or any challenge.

 

Like a delicate snowflake, they can’t take the heat,

and they melt at the slightest disturbance.

 

The Urban Dictionary defines a “snowflake” like this:

 

an overly sensitive person,

incapable of dealing with any opinions that

differ from their own.

These people can often be seen congregating

in ‘safe zones’ on college campuses.”

 

The so-called “safe zones” are places

where these snowflakes won’t hear anything negative,

where they won’t hear anything

that might upset them

and where they won’t hear anything

that might cause them to melt emotionally.

 

An article published by The Atlantic magazine said,

“Something strange is happening

at America’s colleges and universities.

 

A movement is arising,

undirected and driven largely by students,

to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and

subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.

... protecting students from psychological harm.

The ultimate aim, it seems, is

to turn campuses into “safe spaces”

where young adults are shielded

from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable."

 

A psychiatrist gave this diagnosis

of the “snowflake” students.     He said,

 

 "We have created a nation filled with

too many perpetual children — Peter and Patty Pans —

who were brought up getting trophies

for participating in sports, instead of winning,

protected from the supposed horrors of

being ranked by grades and scores.”

 

These kids grew up

without receiving any discipline or correction.

 

Instead, they were always told

how good and wonderful they were.

 

Even in elementary school,

instead of being told they gave the wrong answer,

the teacher would say,

“That’s interesting, Johnny.

Does anyone have another thought?”

 

So, they expect to be treated that way in college, too.

 

At Oberlin College more than thirteen hundred students

actually signed a petition calling for the school

to eliminate any grade lower than a “C.”

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As Bible-believing Christians,

we may look at this situation and say,

“Tsk, tsk—What is this world coming to?”

 

But, unfortunately, it’s not just the unbelieving world

that’s behaving that way.

 

Similar thinking has become widespread

in Christian schools and churches, as well.

 

After teaching for more than 20 years

in both public schools and Christian schools,

my wife Penni took over a class at a Christian school,

where she found that the previous teacher

had been giving every student

A”s on their report card—

regardless of whether they learned

the subjects well, or not.

 

The goal was ‘to make the kids

feel good about themselves,’ she was told.

 

That’s the sort of teaching

that turns kids into into “snowflakes”—

unable to take any discipline or correction.

 

And the same sort of thinking, unfortunately,

has found its way into the pulpits

of churches all across the country.

 

Pastors don’t want to say anything from the pulpit

that might offend someone,

because the offended person might leave the church

and not come back.

 

They try to justify this approach by saying

they avoid denouncing sin,

because a new visitor at the church

might be practicing that sin

and might be offended.

 

They don’t want to offend a new visitor

by giving a sermon that condemns a sin

that visitor might be practicing.

 

But God’s inspired Word says

just the opposite should be done.

 

This is how 1st Corinthians 14:24

says things should go,

when a newcomer walks into the church.

It says,

24 ...if everyone is proclaiming

God's message when some unbelievers

or ordinary people come in,

they will be convinced of their sin

by what they hear.

 

They will be judged by all they hear,

25 their secret thoughts

will be brought into the open,

and they will bow down

and worship God, confessing,

“Truly God is here among you!”

 

So, the Bible says the new visitor to church

will be convinced of their sin

by what they hear.”

 

That means that the messages being preached

will deal with sin,

and that newcomers will hear about their sins

and be convicted to repent.

 

That’s the exact opposite

of the unwritten rule in many churches

not to mention sins,

to avoid offending newcomers.

 

God wants those newcomers to hear about sin

and to be convicted that sin is wrong

and that they should stop sinning.

 

After Jesus healed a man

who had been paralyzed, unable to walk,

Jesus said to him, at John 5:14,

“See, you have been made well.

Stop sinning,

or something worse may happen to you.”

 

Similarly today, people who join us at church

need to hear about Jesus,

and about Jesus’ command to “stop sinning.”

 

Failing to preach messages about sin

leads to newcomers becoming regular attenders,

and still not hearing about sin.

 

So, you end up with couples becoming

part of the church family

while still living together outside of marriage.

 

And you end up with people practicing homosexuality

wanting to take part in serving the church

while still living in sin.

I actually heard leadership discussions in another

Bible-believing evangelical church

about how they thought it was okay

for homosexuals who attended regularly

to pour the coffee

and to sweep the church floor.

 

These were young men and women

who had grown up in the church,

but the leadership was afraid to confront them

over the lifestyle they were adopting—

which they felt free to adopt,

not hearing it condemned

from the pulpit.

 

The leadership didn’t want to tell these young people

that the lifestyle they were adopting

would lead them to eternal damnation,

because such a harsh message

might make them leave the church.

 

They were treating them like “snowflakes”

that might “melt” if they heard the Word of God.

--------------------------------------

 

That might seem like the “kind” thing to do.

 

But, is it “kind” not to warn them

that the “gay” lifestyle will lead them

into the fire of Hell?

 

“Snowflakes” will certainly “melt” there.

 

Well, if you don’t confront sinners over their sin

when they first enter the church,

and you don’t confront sinners over sin

when they grow up in the church,

and they don’t hear that sin is unacceptable

as they become part of the church family,

when do they hear about sin?

 

When Jesus meets them at the gates of Heaven

and turns them away?

 

Jesus said at Matthew 7:21,

 

21 Not everyone who says to Me,

‘Lord, Lord,’

will enter the kingdom of heaven,

but only he who does the will

of My Father in heaven.

 

22 Many will say to Me on that day,

 

‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy

in Your name, and in Your name

drive out demons

and perform many miracles?’

 

23 Then I will tell them plainly,

‘I never knew you; depart from Me,

you workers of lawlessness!’

 

If we want to be kind to newcomers

and to kids growing up in the church,

we won’t treat them like “snowflakes,”

but will tell them now to stop sinning,

so they won’t hear Jesus say,

depart from Me.”

 

At Matthew 25:41 Jesus warned of the time

when he will say,

‘Depart from me, you who are cursed,

into the eternal fire

prepared for the devil and his angels.

 

And at Luke 13:27 Jesus warned of the time

when he will say,

‘Depart from me, all you evildoers.’

There will be weeping and gnashing

of teeth when you see Abraham,

Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets

in the kingdom of God,

but you yourselves are thrown out.

 

If we want to be “kind” to people who are sinning

we’ll tell them about sin now,

so they won’t hear those words from Jesus

when it’s too late.

 

We won’t let them pass through this life as “snowflakes”

and then go into eternity with

as much chance as a snowflake in Hell.”

[ REPEAT ]

------------------------------

 

That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about

in the 20th Chapter of Acts,

when he gave his farewell talk

to the elders of the church in Ephesus.

 

At Acts 20:20 he told them,

 

20 I never shrank back from telling you

what you needed to hear,

either publicly or in your homes.

21 I have had one message

for Jews and Greeks alike—

the necessity of repenting from sin

and turning to God,

and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.

 

That was the message they needed to hear,

and Paul said he “never shrank back

from telling them.

 

And then a few verses later he went on to say

more along the same line.

 

He said,

26 I declare today

that I have been faithful.

 

If anyone suffers eternal death,

it’s not my fault,

27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring

all that God wants you to know.

 

He didn’t treat them like “snowflakes.”

 

He didn’t pat them on the back and praise them

as they kept on sinning

and walking down the wrong path

that leads to eternal punishment.

 

He told them the tough message:  to stop sinning, or else.

That was the message they needed to hear

to turn them back from the road to eternal damnation.

 

If they did suffer eternal death,

it would be their own fault,

for ignoring the message Paul gave them.

 

When Paul said,

If anyone suffers eternal death,

it’s not my fault,

that’s a paraphrased translation,

putting Paul’s thought into English.

 

But a more literal translation would be,

I am innocent of the blood of all men.

 

The concept of “blood guilt” is found

throughout the Hebrew Old Testament.

 

The concept of being innocent or guilty

of other men’s blood

is explained in the 33rd Chapter of Ezekiel,

when God gave Ezekiel this illustration.

 

He said,

‘Suppose I bring the sword against a land,

and the people of that land

choose a man from among them,

appointing him as their watchman,

3 and he sees the sword coming

against that land and

blows the ram’s horn to warn the people.

 

4 Then if anyone hears the sound

of the horn but fails to heed

the warning, and the sword comes

and takes him away,

his blood will be on his own head.

 

5 Since he heard the sound of the horn

but failed to heed the warning,

his blood will be on his own head.

 

If he had heeded the warning,

he would have saved his life.

 

6 But if the watchman

sees the sword coming and fails

to blow the horn to warn the people,

and the sword comes

and takes away a life,

then that one will be taken away

in his iniquity,

but I will hold the watchman

accountable for his blood.’

 

God told Ezekiel that he was making Ezekiel

that sort of watchmanfor the people of Israel.

 

Ezekiel had to call them to repent of their sins,

because punishment from God was coming.

 

If Ezekiel gave them that message,

but they chose to ignore him and sin anyway,

their blood would be on their own heads,

when God punished them.

It would be their own fault, not Ezekiel’s fault.

 

And Paul was that sort of watchman

for the churches where he preached and taught.

 

Paul preached God’s complete message,

so he could say,

If anyone suffers eternal death,

it’s not my fault,

27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring

all that God wants you to know.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

Who in the Bible had the most to say

about punishment after death?

 

One of the tough Old Testament prophets?

 

Moses?  Ezekiel?  Jeremiah?

 

No, it was Jesus who had more to say

about punishment after death

than anyone else in the Bible.

 

Many people don’t know that,

because many churches today shrink back

from giving Jesus’ complete message.

 

They will be held accountable,

because Jesus said at Mark 8:38,

 

"If anyone is ashamed

of Me and My words

in this adulterous

and sinful generation,

the Son of Man will also

be ashamed of him

when He comes in His Father’s glory

with the holy angels.”

 

If we leave out Jesus words

about sin and punishment for sin,

he will hold us accountable.

 

If we shrink back from giving Jesus’ complete message,

we will be like the watchman with blood on his hands.

 

The Apostle Paul knew that faithfulness to God

required him to preach the complete message

that God wanted people to hear—

not just the parts that everyone enjoyed hearing.

 

And we too, today, have an obligation

not to treat people like “snowflakes”

and spare them the harsh warning about eternal death.

 

But Paul knew that a preacher

who preached only nice and pleasant-sounding words

would gain a big following.

 

So, he warned that false teachers who would do that

would arise in the churches.

 

As he drew to a close

his talk with the elders of Ephesus,Paul said,

 

“I know that false teachers,

like vicious wolves,

will come in among you after I leave,

not sparing the flock.

 

Even some men from your own group

will rise up and distort the truth

in order to draw a following. 

Watch out!”-Acts 20:29-31

 

Preachers who “distort the truth

by treating their audience like “snowflakes”

do gain a big following.

 

They leave out the parts of God’s message

that are not popular for people to hear.

 

And today there are huge mega-churches

full of “snowflakes”

who never have to hear a harsh word.

 

Their services are all about “love” and “praise,”

and they never have to hear

that fornicators and homosexuals

will not enter the Kingdom of God.

 

They never have to hear that abortion is murder.

 

They never have to hear Jesus’ call

to Repent and stop sinning.

 

They never have to hear that Jesus said more

about punishment after death

than anyone else in the Bible.

 

But, wouldn’t you rather hear Jesus’ harsh words

preached now from the Bible,

than hear Jesus’ own lips say those harsh words

when your time on earth is over?

 

Wouldn’t you rather hear Jesus’ harsh words now,

than be among those who call him “Lord, Lord,”

only to be turned away from the Gates of Heaven,

with the command,

‘Depart from me, you who are cursed,

into the eternal fire

prepared for the devil and his angels.’

 

Yes, it’s better to hear God’s complete message now—

the message Paul didn’t shrink back from preaching.

 

It’s better NOT to be treated like “snowflakes” now.

 

It’s better to hear that tough message now—

and be corrected by it.

than to face eternal death

and actually melt like a “snowflake” in hell.