I like fortune cookies, except when it comes to preaching and teaching the Word of God. Unfortunately, it seems that we have cultivated fortune cookie Christianity in our society. What do I mean? I mean we are more interested in hearing some cute saying or witticism regarding our life than we are interested in truly understanding what God is saying to us. It seems like the most popular preachers in our society are the ones whose theology consists of nothing more than fortune cookie-like phrases. Listening to their interpretations (or lack thereof) of the Word of God makes it seem that the book was written to assure us that we will always be healthy, wealthy, and wise. An excellent example of this is Jeremiah 29:11. It says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." This would be a great fortune cookie, inspirational and exciting. But, the context of the passage shows us that the nation of Judah was in captivity, and would be there 70 years. They had false prophets telling them that they did not need to plan to stay there long, because God would surely let them go back to the land. Jeremiah's message from God to them was, "Go ahead and build a house, because you are going to be here a while." They were not yet ready to do what would cause them to have God's plans of good activated in their life, In verse 13, God gives them the key to verse 11, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." God was saying that He wanted to bless them, but they were keeping the blessings from coming by their rebellion. Those who had stayed in Jerusalem would be persecuted with the sword, famine, and pestilence, and would be scattered to all nations under the earth (29:18). That does not sound so much like a fortune cookie now, does it? Jeremiah's message to the nation was so popular that they regularly threatened to kill him. If only he had known how to clip out verse eleven and just say that, he would have been the most popular "preacher" in the land. But, he would not have been a Bible preacher.
A preacher must remember that our first and foremost responsibility is to preach what God says. Sometimes people like it, but most of the time they do not. I want to be popular and loved, as everyone does. But I have to be true to God's Word. Paul's divinely inspired advice to Timothy should ring in our ears, "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness." We, as preachers, have to be mindful that we are speaking before the Lord. Our goal is not to subvert hearers, but to rightly divide the Word. The word "subvert" in the Greek is where we get the word catastrophe from. It means to overturn or turn something in the wrong direction. We can strive to find words that they will like, but it will overturn their faith and turn them in the wrong direction. We can be profane or be vain and make everything about what we want to hear. The problem is that this is not what God has called men to do. As a preacher, we are called to rightly divide God's Word and study it to understand what God is saying to us. Then, after we have divided God's Word properly, God's Word will divide the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). It is not always pleasant to be cut by the Word of God, but the result is amazing. We start to seek God with all our hearts, we start to find God, and then we start to see those wonderful plans He has for us formulate in our lives. It takes study to find out what God is saying. It takes courage to preach it exactly as God said it. It takes the Spirit of God to apply that truth to the hearts of the hearers. Then it takes on a whole new meaning when we see how God changes the life of an individual by His Word. I was not called to preach fortune cookie phrases, but to preach the Word of God. May God give us preachers who crack open the Word, not the fortune cookies!