For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. – The Apostle Paul to Timothy
Most likely you’ve heard of or seen a gingerbread house, but have you ever seen a gingerbread lighthouse!? You can imagine the smile on my face as I stumbled upon this magnificent confection. Gingerbread houses can be traced back to 1800’s Germany. Many food historians agree that they were made popular as a result of the famous Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. During the 19th-century mass waves of immigration, many gingerbread house-making Germans moved to the US. Since then, these creative treats have become part of the Amercian Christmas tradition.
Every year I look forward to making and savoring some of the most delectable traditional holiday dishes of my Carribean culture. And though I have lived in the US mainland for over 30 years, I honestly never thought of incorporating the popular gingerbread house to my Christmas menu. Up until now, that is. As a lighthouse aficionado, you can rest assure that I will be designing my very first gingerbread lighthouse this Holiday season.
Are you familiar with the term “eye candy”? It’s a phrase commonly used to describe that which is attractive and pleasant to the sight, something that tempts us with its addictive visual. For example, glittering night lights, a seemingly endless buffet, colorful natural scenes, a bountiful display of sweets, and even titillating billboards can all be considered eye candy.
How about the term “ear candy”? Well, that is what we call the all-inclusive, non-judgemental, non-offensive, “it’s all about you” messages coming from many pulpits today, especially in the West. These are the messages that are meant to attract large audiences by pleasing the ear. While their content is socially relevant, their effect is spiritually devastating. They are too often weakening, rather than empowering, God’s people. They perpetuate rather than break spiritual bondages.
Churches are like lighthouses. They are to emit the light of Christ by inviting and guiding lost souls with the unadulterated word of God. But many houses of worship are slowly becoming spiritual coffee parlors and narcissistic social centers that condone immoral behavior and encourage selfish entitlement. All in the name of love and unity. However, it’s not that difficult to conclude that the main reason is to increase and secure financial support. Instead of preparing fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, these ear candy gospel lighthouses are producing malnourished religious marionettes.
Harsh isn’t it? This is definitely not the typical inspirational and encouraging devotion you are used to reading from me. But as a soul-loving minister and a protective father of three, I believe that encouragement also comes in the form of admonition and rebuke. I am greatly troubled by the growing number of churches that are leading souls deeper into darkness instead of guiding them to the saving light of Christ. It would be irresponsible of me to only write about the encouraging characteristics of effective lighthouses and not mention the detrimental effects of the ineffective ones.
Just as gingerbread houses taste sweet to the lips, the gospel messages preached in many of today’s churches are sweet to the ears. They cause the hearers to feel good and want more but never challenge them or help them to grow stronger in their relationship with a holy God. Instead of well-cooked meat to strengthen the soul, ear candy messages have become the main course of spiritual diets. Very few preachers, especially those on TV, talk about repentance toward God because that presupposes sin and “sin” has become a politically incorrect word in our society. The word “sin” makes people feel uncomfortable. It is judgemental and offensive, so “ministers” just exclude it from their inspirational speeches.
They steer clear from teaching about faith in Christ alone because it is a much too narrow road to travel upon. They believe that people need a broader spiritual path to cruise comfortably without being hurt or offended. So, faith in the individual self or in some other ideal that promises a better, healthier, wealthier life is more inviting than faith in a character that warns of inevitable troubles as a result of following Him. They certainly won’t talk about repentance because that suggests that people are not living right and need to change. And why change when God loves us just the way we are? This ear scratching gospel is what is leading people straight to hell while they sit in churches or in front of TV screens week after week being inspired instead of being transformed.
Part of the body of Jesus Christ is anemic and slowly dying as a result of sugar-coated sermons. It’s time to do away with these poisonous sweets! Time to crumble the gingerbread lighthouses and build strong Holy Spirit reinforced beacons of hope. Time to do as the Apostle Paul said and “…demolish all arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Gospel is more than a message of hope, peace, and love. It is also a call to repentance and transformation. A call to mature spiritually through godly disciplines and many faith-trying challenges. Jesus warned His followers of the imminent dangers they would have to face as a result of believing in Him. He said they would be hated, persecuted, imprisoned and even put to death. Many of them were and many still are!
Jesus himself had no qualms when addressing the issue of sin, especially religious hypocrisy. His zeal for proclaiming the truth of God’s kingdom drove him to say and do things that were considered blasphemous and even criminal. At his trial before Pilate, the main charge against Him was brought on by religious leaders. After actually trying the case, Pilate found no fault in Jesus. However, if tried today, He would most certainly be charged with hate crime, harassment, peace disturbance, and vandalism, among others.
Believers in Jesus Christ are called to obey God, but also to submit to earthly authority. However, our commitment to honor and respect man-made laws should not keep us from declaring and obeying the Spirit-inspired word of God. Nor should it cause us to compromise the truth therein. Regardless of the opposition we may face from a dissenting crowd, we should never alter the message of the Gospel in order to please people, gain their acceptance, or even avoid conflict. Remember, Jesus’ teachings were not popular in his times nor have they been ever since. They frequently rubbed some people the wrong way. In fact, that is exactly why they had him crucified! Yet, what He taught by word and by example is what has and will continue to change countless lives and guarantee them a place with Him in heaven forever.
So church, let’s quit trying to attract men to Christ by becoming ear candy lights. Let us restore the law of God to its rightful place by being straight forward about what separates man from his Creator, namely sin. Then let us offer the solution to restore that relationship by preaching salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we must not stop there. We must also help believers grow spiritually by teaching sound biblical doctrines. And we must encourage them to pursue holiness by living according to God’s precepts and not their own.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe the Gospel of your Son is power unto Salvation. Help me Lord, to live by and share this truth to all who are lost without eternal hope. Don’t let me become or be a part of an ear candy lighthouse. Help me to remain a strong tower so that I may shine the life-changing light of the true Gospel wherever I go. In Jesus name I pray, amen.