We originally published this article on Sunday, February 28, 2016, but it seems even more relevant today.
We live in a world driven by hype. People exaggerate claims and dramatize issues. Sometimes the goal is to generate a sense of excitement, but often people use hype to provoke anger or fear. Advertisers use it to convince us to buy their products. Reporters use it to draw our attention to their stories. Politicians use it to get our vote. And honestly, a lot of pastors use it to persuade people to take action. The Bible, however, casts hype in a negative light.
The Old Testament wisdom literature teaches us the value of careful thought and reflection before any action.
The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (Eccl 9:17).
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way (Prov 19:2).
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding (Prov 17:27).
Careful reflection is particularly important when someone decides to follow Christ. Luke 14:25-33 tells us that Jesus cautioned people not to be like a man who built a tower before considering the cost or like a king who went to war without considering whether he has enough troops to win. Emotional decisions to follow Christ that are not grounded in a clear understanding of the gospel will not last. People must be persuaded by truth not hype.
The problem with hype in the church is that it plays fast and loose with God’s Word. People twist, distort, and gloss over truth to make a bigger emotional impact. Such approaches are not new. Paul faced them in his day. He described his own ministry by saying,
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2).
Hyped up teaching has an addictive quality to it. It’s like junk food for the soul. A steady diet of it makes someone an easy target for false teachers. Paul warned,
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Tim 4:3-4).
I am not suggesting that we should be cold and analytical. Far from it! The truths of the gospel should have a deep emotional effect upon us. We should be grieved and frustrated over sinfulness and suffering in ourselves and others. Forgiveness and the hope of eternal life should prompt feelings of great joy. But these responses should not be forced or manufactured. They must flow from hearts that are saturated with a deep understanding of biblical truth (cf. Rom 10:2).
As I teach the Bible at Calvary East my aim is not to provoke an emotional response. I strive to communicate the truth in a way that is accurate, understandable, and applicable. Let’s pray and trust the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts to produce emotions and, more importantly, actions that flow from his truth.
– Bryan Craddock