From 1st Timothy 4:1-5
by John MacArthur
Now I’ll ask you a simple question. Why are people unwilling to endure sound teaching? Because they love…what?…sin. Sound preaching confronts and rebukes sin and people with love for sinful life style will not tolerate it, they just want their ears tickled. Paul says we can’t do that…we can’t do that.
They want to be entertained. We can’t do that. I think there are thousands of evangelical churches worldwide that can’t even tolerate sound doctrine. They wouldn’t listen to it for two weeks in a row because it would confront their sin, it would confront their error, convict them, call them to truth and obedience. They don’t want healthy teaching. Why? Because they’ve been corrupted by the world. They don’t want to give up their sinful life styles. They want someone who makes them feel good about the way they live.
And what do they want to hear? Ear tickling stuff and they will literally heap to themselves teachers who give them that stuff. In periods of unsettled faith, says one writer, and skepticism and mere curious speculation in matters of religion, teachers of all kinds swarm like the flies in Egypt and the demand creates the supply. The hearers invite and shake their own preachers. If the people desire a calf to worship, a ministerial calf maker is readily found.
That’s happening in the church today, I believe. Evangelicalism has lost its tolerance for biblical preaching and now the church is flirting with serious doctrinal error. The church is throwing its arms open wide and embracing every kind of aberrant viewpoint. Christians madly pursue extrabiblical revelation in the form of prophecies and dreams. Preachers deny the reality of hell. The modern gospel promises heaven apart from holiness. Churches ignore the biblical teaching on women’s roles, homosexuality and other issues that are somehow politically charged. The human medium has overtaken the divine message and this is evidence of a serious doctrinal compromise.
Look again at that verse, verse 3, they want their ears tickled. They don’t want to be confronted. They don’t want to be convicted. They want to be entertained. They want pleasant feelings, anecdotes, humor, psychology, motivational lectures, reassurance, positive thinking, self-congratulation, ego- massaging sermonettes and small talk, not biblical reproof, rebuke and exhortation. But the truth of God doesn’t tickle your ears, it boxes them. It burns them.
From the sermon ‘Ministry in the Age of Itching Ears’