By Elizabeth Prata
Parts of this essay first appeared on the End Time in 2010.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…(2 Timothy 4:3)
Do you notice that word “endure”? The verse does not say “they will not like sound doctrine…” It does not say “they will not enjoy sound doctrine…” It doesn’t even say “they will not accept sound doctrine.” It uses the word endure. When you endure something, you writhe. You wish you were not there in the midst of it. If anyone has ever undergone physical therapy, you know that you have to endure it but if you could you would shoot out of the gym so fast you’d be like a speeding bullet. If anyone has ever had to get a root canal, you know that you endure it. You do not seek it, you do not like it, and if you could, you go away from it.
That is the process by which lukewarm Christians, fake Christians, and unholy pastors feel about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be sure, the true Gospel of the Risen Savior is full of warm fuzzies. He loves us. He prospers us. He sends angels to us. But the True Gospel is also full of truth, the unpalatable truth that the iniquitous lawless cannot endure: we are sinners. Rejection of the remedy for your sin means you will spend eternity in torment, apart from God. That there is nothing good in us. That we are fallen, craven, and deserve judgment. No, they will not endure that. So they don’t.
Instead they seek teachers to tempt us with what the devil has always tempted us with, and tempted Jesus too: health, wealth, fame. They may find it in some “preachers” and in some “churches”, but it is for a season. Most do not find prosperity in health, wealth and fame. The only ones becoming famous and rich are the false pastors who urge the hapless and desperate to send money.
A watered down gospel removes the book-end to the love parts that they seek. That other book-end is judgment. They will not endure sound teaching that His holiness involves love but it also includes righteous judgment.
“I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
“They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’
Men will come to Him,
And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. (Isaiah 45:23-24)
The true word absorbed by submissive believers is sweet. But it is also sometimes accompanied by a bitterness felt by even the most beloved of followers, even the most obedient of disciples. Sometimes the true word is hard to hear and bitter even for believers, because it reveals to us the true state of our sinfulness and the fate of those who refuse His hand, those mockers and scorners whom we mourn over-
I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. (Revelation 10:10)
The only way to endure the knowledge of judgment that is coming is to rest on His truth and His promises. Those who do not rest in that truth, bitter as it sometimes is, do not endure it. Not only have they stopped asking the Spirit for wisdom, but they simply stop ingesting the sweet Words of the LORD and they flee away, being unstable in all they do.
If you seek sound doctrine but have had a hard time finding it, I encourage you to enjoy the teachers I have been enjoying. John MacArthur is strong, loving, and firm in preaching and teaching all of the Gospel. His doctrine is sound because it comes verse by verse from the Living Word. His website is Grace to You, or gty.org. There, you can read essays and transcripts if you do not have a fast connection, or click on audio or video to listen or watch.
Alistair Begg is another good one. He is at Truth for Life.
RC Sproul at Ligonier.org
S. Lewis Johnson at Believers Chapel
Has solid preaching become an endurance test for you? Or are the hard but truthful words uplifting to you and filling in every way? If you have recently changed churches because the pastor is “a little too bible thumping for my taste”, or have you drifted away from regular worship lately because the sermons are too long, too convicting, or demand endurance on the part of your deceitful heart, then ask yourself if you are really just trying to accumulate a teacher in accordance with your own desires, and are wanting your ears tickled with a less filling but great tasting sermon. If so, you may be at risk.