In charging Timothy to approach the preaching of the message of Christ with a sense of urgency and faithfulness, Paul said the time was coming when people would have itching ears, would not endure sound doctrine and would secure teachers who would preach to their liking (2 Timothy 4:1-4). For centuries the Christian world has been characterized by factionalism and division that has resulted in the checkered landscape of denominations, sects and parties largely resulting from the preferential desires of men. When people favor one “brand” of Christianity over another, one logical argument over another, or humanly preferred practice over another the whole purpose of God in bringing man into a relationship with himself is defeated and his mission of restoring man to his intended place of glory is brought to a standstill.
There is but one thing that will overcome all this shameful, destructive, exclusivity. It is the old, old message of the cross of Christ. Paul said he preached nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-4), which, according to the apostle, is both the wisdom and power of God. Thankfully, there are increasing numbers of congregations dropping their denominational identification from their church signs and advertising. They are beginning to realize that people are not looking for denominational “brands,” but for a divine relationship. People are not looking for doctrinal systems, but, like the apostle Paul, for knowledge of a person – Jesus – who is the Christ (Philippians 3:8). People will always divide over doctrines and practices, but Christ draws men to him by the power of his loving sacrifice on the cross (John 12:32).
Looking again at Paul’s charge to Timothy, he told him that the day would come when men would simply seek to have their “ears” scratched and their “itch” soothed. What “tickles” your ears? We are inclined to think soft preaching is what tickles ears. “We would never stand for soft preaching,” they say. Actually, a preacher can tickle people’s ears by preaching hard sermons, condemning every sin and every “error” they are against and still not preach all the truth. It is not how hard a preacher preaches against things they do not approve that guarantees he is preaching truth. It is how faithful he is to the message of “Christ and him crucified.” That always demands that we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
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