READ: Psalm 95, Amos 7, Luke 23, Galatians 1
Where did we get the idea that the gospel makes people happy, that preaching God’s Word pleases the unconverted? The gospel offends more than it delights. For good news to have relevance it must be contrasted with the bad news of every man and woman being horrifically sinful and under the judgment and wrath of God. The gospel (Creation–Fall–Redemption) points out to every person that they are wrong and must change. This Word from heaven does not sit well with the arrogant of earth. If God’s voice hardens many hearts, what makes us think our voice will or should soften them? “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts,” the Psalmist says (95:7-8), and the implication is of course that God’s voice makes many rebellious. We assume it is enough for God to speak–it isn’t! Humanity must respond, submit, and obey the Word of God and most people don’t.
The gospel communicator must be committed to a life of humanity’s displeasure, satisfied that the delight of God far outweighs the scorn of people. Paul tells us in Galatians that if in “this present evil age” we seek to please people we cannot be bondservants of Christ (1:4, 8-10). This pleasing or upsetting of people is in the context of preaching a difficult gospel. When we consistently represent God, “the land is unable to bear all [our] words” (Amos 7:10), and we will face incredible pressure not to prophecy in Bethel (v. 13), to regulate and moderate what we say. When we run into the anger of those who resent the good news–and we will–we must be an Amos, not a Pilate. Amos responded to pressure by saying: “I was no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said: ‘Go prophesy!’” (vv. 14-15). And Amos did just that. Pilate responded to pressure [insistent, demanding, loud voices prevailing, giving sentence that it should be as they requested, delivering Jesus to their will (Luke 23:23-25)] by letting the displeased decide what to do with Jesus. Don’t let people tell you what to do with Jesus! Don’t allow those who the gospel has convicted and angered to frame or alter your gospel message.
“Bearing the cross after Jesus” (Luke 23:26) means in part that we too must be hated as Jesus was hated. We are separated and called through grace for Jesus to be revealed in us (Galatians 1:15), and that will make people mad. The revelation of Jesus in us will anger more people than it pleases. We must swiftly rid ourselves of the notion that preaching the gospel and bearing the image of Christ will make us popular. Those that faithfully steward the gospel and the Christ will be the most polarizing and pressured of humanity, and the most unpopular.