Paul said to the Philippians “15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” Phil 1:15-18
Paul would not be so happy if the message being preached by these was a wrong or distorted message. Those who preached “from pretense” or “envy“, and not from “pure motives” must have still been preaching the truth: just not for the right motive. Since I have been studying Jonah, I think Jonah might be an example of this. He preached God’s message even if he was wrestling with God and dreaded the idea that God would relent and spare the Ninevites. The heart of Jonah wasn’t right. His motive for preaching the message of Judgment to the Ninevites was not pure. He must have been hoping the people would not repent. In Jonah chapter 4, he sat above the city waiting to see what would happen and how disappointed he was when God relented.
The man of God must worship God in spirit and truth, John 4:23,24. It’s important to God that both inwardly and outwardly that we be on God’s side. We must care for souls and be as longing, compassionate and long-suffering as He is, desiring for all to be saved. Jonah was not so. Paul lamented that his fellow countrymen, the unbelieving Jews, had zeal, but not according to knowledge. Their zeal alone could not save them. Zeal without knowledge is not pleasing to God. Denominational folks must have lots of zeal, but not in accordance with knowledge, and it doesn’t save them, Rom. 10:1,2. Conversely, obedience alone to God’s truth isn’t satisfactory to either.
To worship in truth without the right spirit of faith and devotion is mere external show which also is not pleasing to God. He was not pleased with the tithing of the Pharisees, no matter how meticulously they did it, because they were seeking the approval of men. Motive matters.
When you, the man of God, preach the truth, you must preach only the truth and make sure that your motives and attitudes are also satisfying to God. This I believe is the reason that overly negative preaching is so troubling to people. Not that sincere people don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth, but that they don’t also hear of the love and compassion of God. Even in the difficult or hard teachings of the Bible, God’s love should be evident. When it’s not, then the preacher is bringing something of his own to the pulpit. So preach the truth, even about sin and hell, but tell it with the heart of God. Ezekiel said, “God does not desire the death of the wicked”, and so preach it like that. If our preaching sounds like we take pleasure in people going to hell, that’s like Jonah and not like God. Don’t preach from impure motives because while the message may save others, it does not save you and you may find that you yourself will not win the prize.