When the Word is preached, people get uncomfortable… some accuse the preacher of using a “Bully pulpit.” It is more likely The Holy Spirit is doing soul work and exposing in the hidden recesses of their heart all manner of sin and hellish intentions. It is recorded in Hebrews 4:12-13 that Scripture invades the hearer to the heart and exposes their sin. Thus the uncomfortableness when listening to the Word (A.K.A. for some, a Bully Pulpit).
Those under conviction of the Spirit can get angry, defensive, and vitriolic… lashing out in hatred toward the Sender’s messenger. A case in point is Stephen who in Acts 7:1-60 delivered a message well accepted as long as he gave a historical lesson (7:2-50). It was the application (7:51-53) that caused a problem (7:54-60). Some would say he took advantage of having a “Bully Pulpit.” Here is what is recorded he said…
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 57 They cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. 59 As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Others hear The Word… are convicted by The Spirit… and have a completely different reaction. Consider the message Peter delivered at Pentecost. He pointed back to history referencing the Prophet Joel, David, and the Patriarchs (Acts 2:16-35) . Then came the punch line about Jesus… much as Stephen would do. But the response was completely different! Acts 2:36-41…
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, & said to Peter &the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Both groups heard the Gospel. Both were convicted by The Spirit. One reacted violently and committed murder. The other was broken by their sin… repented… and were saved. One group accused the messenger of being a bully in the pulpit, the others heard the Word differently. When you heard the Word preached… and emotions well up… seek God for a Pentecost experience (Acts 2:16-41) rather than a murderous one (Acts 7:2-60).
How will you hear the Gospel THIS Sunday?