Entertaining the Goats

Entertaining the Goats

The word “gospel” means “good news. Not everyone is interested in the good news of what Jesus has done. So, many churches seek the advice of consultants about how to attract larger crowds. This approach often leads to compromising the Gospel to appease worldly people.

When Paul departed Crete to evangelize in other cities, he left Titus behind to disciple a confused church, misled by a compromised Gospel. Later, Paul sent a letter to encourage Titus and it contained powerful instructions for correcting a compromised Gospel.

Titus 1:10-16 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

This situation parallels ours today. We have people in the American Church like the Cretans. They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works or they teach false doctrines in the Church for shameful gain. Like some American churches, the church in Crete was overrun with sensuality, infiltrated with worldly philosophy, and mixed with other religions. Titus may have desired to leave, but Paul reminded Titus of his mission:

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order.

Likewise, Christ has left us in a dark and evil world for a purpose:

Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Today, we’re the people Jesus has appointed to be lights in a dark place. The reason we are here right now—the reason we exist—is to shine His glory! We are here to be His testimony, to preach the Gospel, to be His ambassadors to a world thirsting desperately for love and significance.

However, there’s a major problem in the Church today regarding our mission. Much of the American culture—including the exalted pursuit of happiness—has seeped into the Church’s culture, compromising its mission and making the Church ineffective. Many teach and behave as if God exists for us rather than the other way around. They think faith is about gaining His blessings rather than an intimate relationship of love with God. That’s idolatry, plain and simple. It puts material gain and fleshly satisfaction before a holy, loving God.

The same thing happened with the church in Crete. The church was just as flesh-driven as the larger culture. Titus had to confront the false doctrines, which compromised the church’s mission by catering to people’s flesh rather than show a way to godliness.

Titus 3:1-11 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

It is discouraging to consider all the “Christians” who attend church and whose lives aren’t being transformed by the Gospel. If we say we believe the Good News of Christ but don’t practice it, we’re no better than the Pharisees Jesus criticized. We become workers for the devil.

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

There is a lot of pressure on the Church to compromise the Truth. In some cases, we have done that and we have lost our influence in society. Once we become like the world, no one needs our compromised truth, for it has no power to change lives.

For example, in just a few years’ time, homosexuality has become normalized in the culture when the Bible clearly teaches against it. Laws have been passed that require tolerance of homosexuality, and we’re being required to take “sensitivity training” and accept it gladly.

This is problematic for Bible believers. As Christians, we love homosexuals and anyone else dealing with a sexual sin or any sin. However, homosexuality, adultery, and pre-marital sex can’t be reconciled with Scripture. To preach the Gospel, we must preach the truth about all sin and its eternal consequences. The Gospel is about Jesus who saved us from the consequences of sin and gave us power to live holy and to receive the consequences of holy living.

Meanwhile, as we follow Jesus’ example to love all people by telling them the truth, including homosexuals, we’re labeled haters and bigots. But there is no hate speech in the Bible—only uncomfortable speech about sin. Right now, society is basically commanding us to re-interpret the Scriptures that speak of homosexuality as sinful. If we capitulate, homosexuals will be told a lie. It doesn’t matter who we are—if we don’t turn from sin, we will suffer the consequences. Love motivates us to tell sinners the truth.

But sometime soon, preachers will be accused of using hate speech whenever they address sexual sin. Once that accusation is accepted in our culture, laws will follow, and churches will lose more than just their tax-exempt status. They will also lose their standing with those who need to hear the Truth and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 3:1-9 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

That’s sounds like today. Yet Paul is referring not only to the world but also to us Christians: “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” God never tells us to avoid the unsaved; they are our primary mission. So when he says to “avoid such people,” he’s referring to so-called “Christians” who deny God’s authority in their lives and do not live accordingly.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Before we begin purging everyone out of this church for sin (for we all are guilty of sin) we must preach and teach about sin, so that those in the church can repent and purge the sin out of their life. Paul was referring to purging the unrepentant—those who refuse to purge the sin from their life. Part of that purging process is examining ourselves each week before taking communion and continually repenting of sin. However, if someone intentionally continues to sin without repentance after receiving the truth, there comes a time to disassociate ourselves from them, so they, and others, will know sin is not condoned, and they will hopefully repent.

Our problem in the American church is we’re afraid of turning people off, so we bend over backward to appease everyone who enters our doors. Some churches try to be places where people learn about themselves, are built up in themselves, and feel good about themselves. I’m all for uplifting the downcast, but these churches encourage the sin that is behind all the trouble: a love of self instead of a love of God!

The goal of such churches is nickels, noses, and numbers. To increase attendance and offerings, a worldly, feel-good, message is preached and entertainment is offered. While evil increases, these churches increase their pursuit of self-promotion, gain, and comfort.

To avoid persecution and controversy, many churches are compromising the Truth. However, there is only one thing that can come against Satan’s hell on earth: a church that’s able to stand up and speak God’s Word boldly with love and integrity. Without a holy presence in this dark world, people will never know an alternative.

God has called us to share the truth of the Gospel, not the philosophy of the world, nor the doctrines of other religions. The Word of God is what has power to change a person’s life.

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

How can we preach the Truth if darkness is presented as the Gospel? We’re not the first generation to see this happening in the Church. Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19-century preacher, saw the same worldliness creeping into churches of his time.

He wrote: “The Devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of her mission is to provide entertainment for the people with a view of winning them…. The Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them…. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

“My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did Christ not speak of it? ‘Go ye, therefore, into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Yes, that is clear enough, and so would it have been, if He had added, ‘and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel’… I do not hear Christ say to His disciples, ‘Run after these people that are leaving. Peter, tell them we will have some different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with very little preaching’”. Then Spurgeon added, “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.”

Paul didn’t leave Titus behind in Crete to entertain the people. And Jesus didn’t leave us on this darkened earth to amuse.

We are here for a godly purpose: to hear from God, to live and speak His holy Word, and to cut through the culture with conviction, love, and power!

Paul says we have two things to do while we remain in “Crete”. The first is:

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine.

The word “sound” here signifies something immovable, inarguable, and rock-solid.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

God does not change with our culture. He provided doctrine for us to reliably base our lives on it, not the world. This means doctrine can’t be frivolous or merely exciting to our ears. That kind of doctrine is here one day and blown away by the winds of fleshly fads tomorrow. For some in the Church, this may mean putting down the latest Christian best-seller and picking up God’s Word, which He provided for our everlasting benefit.

Second, we are to declare the Gospel in word and deed:

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

I ask you: as God’s living lights in a dark evil culture, are we practicing these things, or have we reduced God’s Word to advice on better living? Do we still believe the Word is the Truth for today and that it has power to change people’s lives? If we really believe Christ’s Gospel is Good News—that He died to save sinners—we’ll tell others about it without apology, because we love God and we love sinners. And sinners will know its power by the testimony we live.

Our first task is to take a serious attitude toward God’s Word. That will rid us of hypocrisy and false doctrine. It will confront us with our dryness, coldness, and casualness toward Christ’s way. And it will send us to our knees in repentance and prayer for God to bring change.

Prayer changes things. It changes our hearts, our families, our churches, and ultimately our world. Pray for God’s Word to do a work in your heart; for courage to stand with integrity as a voice for His Word; and pray for Him to bring about changes only He can bring! He alone can stop the tide of evil being unleashed. He alone can revive the Church, turn us toward repentance, and even bring spiritual awakening to our society. But His work starts with us, each individual of His Church.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.

We may never be a large church, but I pray we will always be God’s people, a faithful church unto Him alone. It doesn’t matter what size church you attend. For a day is coming when Jesus will make the distinction of who belongs to God.

Matthew 25:32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Are you a sheep or a goat? Do you love the Word of God and live according to it, or do you just like to hear good preaching? You see, preaching can be a form of entertainment, especially if you don’t take the Word seriously. God knows your heart; I don’t.

Ezekiel 33:31-32 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

I say it again: Our first task is to take a serious attitude toward God’s Word. That will rid us of hypocrisy and false doctrine. It will confront us with our dryness, coldness, and casualness toward Christ’s way. And it will send us to our knees in repentance and prayer for God to bring change. For the glory of Jesus Christ, I pray we all get serious with God and His Word.

If you are not one of God’s children, a “sheep” of His pasture, you will be separated with the “goats” when Jesus returns. You may become a child of God today by believing in His Son, Jesus, confessing Him as the Christ who atoned for your sin on the cross, repenting of that sin, and following Him in baptism. Then you will be born again of God’s Spirit, making you His child.