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Many ‘prophets,’ he reminds, cannot deliver people from sin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“Practice what you preach” and “preach what you practice” are habits Christians should develop, said Forrest E. Lowry, pastor of the near-5,000-member Spring (Texas) Baptist Church, said Feb. 25 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In introductory remarks to a sermon on “The True Prophets of Doom,” Lowry reflected on the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee earlier in the week, noting committee members were encouraged by “how different the SBC is now as compared to 1979. We were rejoicing in the spirit of the seminaries, in the leadership of the seminaries and in what God is doing.”
Lowery, who serves as Executive Committee secretary, continued by saying, “I want to say as a Texan not to believe everything you hear coming out of the Lone Star State. We get surprised ourselves, as a matter of fact, by statements that are made and predictions that are coming.”
Lowry was responding to comments by Russell H. Dilday Jr., president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, who was quoted by an Abilene newspaper Jan. 19 as saying that three SBC seminaries could lose $3 million in funding through changes he believes will come in how the BGCT’s Cooperative Program allocations.
Dilday added the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to his list in an interview with the Baptist Standard published Jan. 25. Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., were the seminaries Dilday listed.
“It is our desire and our prayer that if certain leaders in the [BGCT] should attempt to defund Southern Seminary or Southeastern or Midwestern that the rest of us in Texas would do everything we could to make that up,” said Lowry, whose church is affiliated only with the BGCT and the SBC.
Preaching from Jeremiah 23, Lowry said, “Some years ago God took this passage and really emblazoned into my heart a fear that there would ever be a time in my life and ministry that … I might somehow deviate from the path and somehow come to the point where my ministry would be of no value — that I would really strengthen evildoers in their wickedness and sin rather than turning evildoers away from sin.”
Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet, was brokenhearted and troubled” by the condition of prophets of his day, Lowry said.
They were “wicked shepherds [and] political leaders who did not have the integrity necessary to lead the nation,” he recounted. “‘They do not benefit these people in then least, declares the Lord,’” said Lowry, quoting verse 32.
Lowry said Jeremiah’s counterparts gave a “false message of hope,” so that the people were comforted in their wickedness and did not change their lifestyles. “They were truly prophets of doom.”
Modern preachers, Lowry warned, should not become such prophets.
He noted the danger, for example, of a sermon on homosexuality that attempts “to contextualize it in today’s framework and say, ‘Well, it’s a physical predisposition. After all, it’s the way God made them. It’s a natural, normal, alternate lifestyle.’
“The result of that is [homosexuals] can never ever experience the deliverance of God and the freedom from that oppressive sin — just like any other sin,” Lowry said.
Declaring that homosexuality “is not normal” and is “biblically against the will of God and the way of God” offers hope and deliverance, he said. Then, through “repentance and faith, just like anyone else,” homosexuals can experience freedom and can be changed.
“When we speak about abortion, we can try to soften the message and say, ‘A woman [has] a right to choose; after all, it’s a fetus, an unwanted blob of tissue attached to a woman temporarily. You’ve got to, after all, consider the issue of incest and rape and all the other things’ [in an effort] to contextualize it,” Lowry said.
“But the bottom line is, if we lovingly and graciously point out that this is a sin against God, we give young women the right to make a right choice. [If we] give them the truth of God’s Word in compassion and kindness and mercy and forgiveness and love, then they can be transformed, and then they can experience hope.”
The preaching of the prophets in Jeremiah’s day, however, was “profane” and “polluted,” Lowry said. Their lifestyles “demonstrated and verified the lie of their theological persuasion [indicating] they were following vain ideas.”
“Not only did they live a lie, they preached a lie. They were speaking a powerless message — no power to deliver anyone from their sin.” Because of those things, the Lord promised the prophets serious disaster, Lowry said.
“They enabled idolaters and disabled no wickedness. What an epitaph of failure,” he said.
“That’s not what I want to be remembered for. That’s not what you want to be remembered for. We want to be able to know that we lovingly and graciously can proclaim the truth of God so that people’s lives can be impacted with the truth and they then can make a choice for righteousness — a choice that God will then empower and enable them to make to do what is right, not what is wrong.”
To reach such a goal and to avoid the pitfalls of the prophets of doom, Lowry contended that the Lord’s people need to do the opposite of what the false prophets did. He listed “action steps we need to take, since this passage is true:”
— Always stand in the council of the Lord. Commit to spend quantity and quality time with the Lord. There is no shortcut.
— Decide today to speak only the Word of the Lord. Preach his Word and proclaim his ways.
— Be dedicated to supporting the will and work of the Lord. Seek to help sinners turn and be delivered and be transformed from their wicked ways.
“With God’s help, and our prayers together, just maybe none of us will ever be prophets of doom,” Lowry said. “I trust that it will never be said of any of us in this room that we were of no benefit at all to [God’s] people.”

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  • Norman Miller