Soft Preaching Produces Hard Hearts While Hard Preaching Shatters then Produces Soft Hearts Towards God and His Righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3 a direct translation from the NA27 Greek text)

The institutional church or visible church in our time is a mess. It has lost its focus. This has come about over many decades of bad theology overtaking mediocre theology so that the focus of so much of what we see in any given church is not God and His glory, but on people with the man behind the pulpit in the spotlight as if he is either some sort of CEO or a Rock Star. In the seeker-sensitive church model, all things are geared to be inoffensive to everyone so sermons are short and pragmatic with so-called worship being all about entertainment. In those churches subscribed to that model there are no expository sermons preached about the Holiness and Righteousness of God in light of the sinfulness of man and thus his need of a Saviour. No, that would be considered “hard preaching” and offensive. Instead, the order of the day is “soft words.” 

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post which I translated from the Greek text of Romans 10:3. The Apostle Paul wrote this about his Jewish brethren. He was describing why their hearts were so hard to the truth of Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their religious leaders had led them to create a system of beliefs based around the Law of God, but they were ignorant of the true righteousness of God. However, through works righteousness, they sought to establish their own righteousness. When John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles confronted them with the truth of the Gospel in light of their false religious system, they refused to submit to the righteousness of God and, in fact, became very hostile to the Gospel and those who preached, believed, and obeyed it.

They were doing exactly what most of those in “evangelicalism” are doing in our time. They are viewing God’s righteousness as being less than it really is and theirs as being more than adequate. The soft words preached to them in their churches only harden their hearts to believe these lies and become more and more hostile to the real Gospel, which, when they do hear it, seems so harsh and mean. The contacts I receive sometimes are quite accusatory that we are misrepresenting God. They cannot reconcile the God of the Bible with this God who is “all love” that Rob Bell and those like him are selling. Again, soft words produce hard hearts. What breaks those hard hearts?

The only implement that God gave us to wield against the hearts of people is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ preached in full accompanied by the Law to reveal the Holiness and Righteousness of God and how the sinfulness of man is a complete offense to Him. That is the Gospel that God has promised to bless in His Word that when we preach it, He will bless with the breaking of hearts and changing of lives forever with His truth. Hard preaching may hurt the feelings or offend those who refuse to hear, but it is what shatters those hard hearts and through that, God makes into soft hearts intent on His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

This will be my last post this week so it will also be my last post this month. I am in a great deal of pain and I need some rest. I will be visiting family in Oklahoma over the next several days and hope to be back by Monday. – Mike Ratliff



13 thoughts on “Soft Preaching Produces Hard Hearts While Hard Preaching Shatters then Produces Soft Hearts Towards God and His Righteousness

  1. We will be praying for you, Mike. Your ministry here is vital as you sound scriptural truth in these days of compromise.

    Thank you, my brother in Jesus.. get better and come back asap!


  2. Mike,
    Thank you for preaching the straight truth of God’s Word. It seems like most preachers in our area are either the Emergent-warm/fuzzy variety, or the “entertainers” who are looking for amens and applause from their audiences. I’m sorry to hear that you’re in pain. Praying that you’ll be able to get rest and relieve, and that you’ll have a wonderful visit with your family!


  3. Joanne, I know about the church environment you are talking about. It is a shame that that is the norm almost everywhere these days.

    God uses my physical pains as fiery trials at times to discipline me, to humble me, to make me dependent upon His grace alone for everything. His grace is sufficient and He has allowed me these few days of rest and recovery so I am taking them. To God be the glory!


  4. Mike… Sometimes, to remind us of our humanity, our arrow wobbles, grazes the side of a tree and sticks into the ground…but just momentarily until we are picked up once again and sent on our way…have a good rest.

    As the Servant of the Lord, Christ, is depicted here in this passage of Isaiah 49 as an arrow that will not slow down or miss the mark. He was an arrow concealed in times past but he is now firmly and fiercely on target and his momentum is unstoppable…princes will bow down…

    The Servant of the LORD
    1 Listen to me, you islands;
    hear this, you distant nations:
    Before I was born the LORD called me;
    from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.
    2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
    and concealed me in his quiver.
    3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
    4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
    I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
    Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand,
    and my reward is with my God.”
    5 And now the LORD says—
    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
    to bring Jacob back to him
    and gather Israel to himself,
    for I am[a] honored in the eyes of the LORD
    and my God has been my strength—
    6 he says:
    “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
    I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

    7 This is what the LORD says—
    the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
    to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
    to the servant of rulers:
    “Kings will see you and stand up,
    princes will see and bow down,
    because of the LORD, who is faithful,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”


  5. The problem is we have been told that if there is a sign on the corner and a man titled ‘Pastor’ and a group called ‘Christians’ and a name of the corporation has something like ‘church’ or ‘Christ’ or similar then it is the ‘church’. Well it isn’t.
    God’s people hear Truth, desire Truth, walk in Truth, love the Truth and have been given the Spirit of Truth not the spirit of error. When will we stop calling calling “unity by careful organization” ( as AW Tozer called it below ) a “church”?
    Or “The Church”?

    “One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”
    — A.W. Tozer


  6. Pingback: Soft words harden the heart… « Living Journey

  7. Be careful you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Many seeker friendly churches have very intentional, very Bible/gospel centric discipleship programs. In essence, the gospel is preached very strongly during the rest of the week in group and Bible study settings. The seeker friendly approach in worship services is a choice of approach to draw people into a setting they would otherwise never approach.


  8. Tony, but as we have stated and proved Biblically more times than I will go into here, what you are describing is not the BIblical design of a local Church. Sorry, but it isn’t real church no matter how you try to sell it.


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