I just read a Facebook post by Steve Harmon, whom I would characterize as a modern-day Disciple of Jesus. He travels the world preaching, healing, and delivering, in the Name of Jesus. He doesn't quite fit the mold of conventional Christianity, but then Jesus wasn't easily categorized either. Anyway, Steve was making a statement about David Hogan, a friend and Pastor and President of Freedom Ministries. If you aren't familiar with David, he's about as unorthodox a Pastor as you will ever meet. To say that he is "rough around the edges" is to put it mildly. He can come across as coarse, crass, crude, and uncultured. His style of preaching can be quite abrasive and caustic. But I don't think I've ever heard a man more passionate about loving Jesus.
Steve was commenting about David because he said he, himself, was struggling with David's approach to ministry, and found himself criticizing David's delivery. Now, if you are unfamiliar with David Hogan, let me tell you that he doesn't look or sound like any preacher you've ever heard. He's a Cajun from Louisiana and comes from a long line of men who preached the Gospel. But early in his life, David strayed from that path, hating the hypocrisy he found in the Church. So he rebelled and entered a life of hard living, drinking, gangs and violence. But this is how he describes his conversion: "You wanna know how awesome my life is? When you find the lowest, rejected and dejected human, and you can take 'em and pull 'em to you and love 'em... that's what Jesus did to me". His conversion birthed a burning passion for Christ in his heart, but it did not erase his distaste and disgust for hypocrisy in the Church.
David Hogan is plain-spoken and not prone to sugar-coating his sermons. He will tell it like it is and doesn't care if he offends Christians. Here are some of his more straightforward pronouncements: "People need a Gospel THAT WORKS! ... Stop your unbelief and believe! ... How long is it gonna take? How many seminars for you to know Him? Jesus
is King. That's as far as it goes. He is the power of the Gospel ... 'Manifesting' is a devil running into the Holy Spirit ... Heaven is for us. You need people who have the right to break down powers and
principalities. You need Pioneers. You quote it [the Bible], and the demon will
still beat you. SUCCESS is what WE are after! Who Jesus is, and who He is
IN you - get an understanding about that!! ... I know that you have more theology than I do and you know more verses
than me. But that's useless. Because it's about who Jesus is to you! ... Discipline, faith and availability can go a long way especially with Holy Ghost powers". You get the idea; not exactly material from the ready-made sermons you can find online.
But I'm not here to praise or condemn David Hogan. You need to listen to his sermons yourself and determine if he speaks Truth, and if you want to hear more. What I do want to address is the readiness of some Christians to define a message by its level of sensitivity, or who have a "grace standard" that must be met before they discern a fellow Christian's heart.
Steve Harmon said it best when he revealed his thoughts about David Hogan: "This guy doesn't know love. He sounds mean." Then the Lord told Steve, ""You have no idea how much that man loves, do you?" That is the essence of this post. Is how we love with our words the only measure of how much we love God or others? I will admit it is much easier to accept a word of discipline or rebuke when it is spoken in soft tones and endearing phrases. But don't we need to take it a step further and look at the results of this type of "love delivery"? Did it produce the desired results? Did the recipients of this type of "love language" bear fruit for God and His Kingdom? I know that there are people whose hearts are moved by such words of grace and encouragement, and they are inspired to become effective ambassadors for the Kingdom. That was the word they needed to start walking out their faith!
But I also know that there are people who are unmoved by the softer touch and who respond to the challenge of looking in the mirror. But should we simply give lip service to "grace" and "love" as the only way we are to address our fellow Christians about our accountability to God? Aren't we to discern if there is fruit from their efforts? Sometimes, I think we are too quick to judge others whose passion and love for God are expressed in strong terms as being "insensitive, hard-hearted, and unkind"; definitely not exhibiting Jesus-like qualities. Perhaps we should look to see if their actions back up their stricter language.
I have known men of God who fit both descriptions... one man will endeavor to show grace and mercy in all situations, hesitant to speak a word of judgment or analysis; careful to show the compassion and everlasting love of Christ to those in his sphere of influence. Another man equally loves the Lord, but is unafraid to challenge his fellow Christians to walk in the ways of the Lord, at all costs. He is not as concerned about offending someone as he is about influencing the Body of Christ to walk in Jesus's footsteps.
When I look at the culture of Christianity today, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't be better off if we had a Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield among our prominent clergy. I'm not saying we have to become hyper-religious and abandon all grace and mercy. But if God is going to judge our effectiveness for His Kingdom by the fruit of our actions then the state of the family, our acceptance of abortion as the law of the land, the gender confusion among our children, and the lack of moral standards in our government might suggest that a little stricter approach would be worthy of our consideration.
Have we let the culture of "political correctness" in our society infiltrate our Church culture? Have we let the "Age of Grace" restrict our ability to be honest and tell the truth? Are we so afraid to offend that we are willing to extend only love ... and not to teach, rebuke, correct and train in love? I like how Steve Harmon closed his conversation about David Hogan's style of preaching ... "Many love with their words, but David loves with his actions. I started
thinking how much people give lip service and talk or write about love,
but when it comes to actually backing it up with their actions, the
numbers drastically wear thin. David gives his everything to help and
rescue people and give them Jesus. He puts his life in danger for others regularly [through his missionary field in Mexico], something that most Christians are not ready to do. Love is
when you make people more important than yourself by showing it in
sacrificial action. Love must cost something of you. It's where you are
willing to lose something that you may never get back to benefit another person".
This fits rather nicely with the words from a sermon by George Whitefield, the most popular preacher of the Evangelical Revival in Great Britain and the Great Awakening in America: "But he is unworthy [of] the name of a minister of the Gospel of Peace, who is unwilling, to have his name cast out as evil, but also to die for the Truth of Jesus Christ" and "It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher".
I am not advocating that we Christians stop showing the love of Christ through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But sometimes the gentle approach doesn't always move a person to make a decision for Christ. Jesus, Himself, often chastised His Disciples for not getting it! This passage in Luke, Chapter 17, shows the heart of our Lord when it comes to our fellow Believers: So be alert to your brother’s condition, and if you see him going the wrong direction, cry out and correct him. If there is true repentance on his part, forgive him. Here we see the fullness of our love for our fellow Christians.
On Judgment Day we will
have to give an account for every careless word we speak. But it can be just
as careless to mollify and placate the Body of Christ with words that
don't call them to account, as it can be to chastise and rebuke without
love. So, yes, we are to restore each other in gentleness of spirit, but we are also told in Scripture that "iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another". The last time I looked, there is nothing gentle or soft about iron. In the end, I just want us to be careful about passing judgment on the messenger of God's Word. God can use both the gentle and the sharp man to reconcile us to Himself. Today, the Body of Christ needs both a Bill Johnson and a David Hogan. God's love is both a soothing balm and a fiery energy. As the Lord told Steve Harmon, "You have no idea how much that man loves, do you?" The truth is, we can't know another man's heart, but we can look at his actions and his fruit ... and then accept all those whom the Lord has called.
Jeremiah 17:10 But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
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