For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
Religious people are psychologically conditioned to the trite phrase and the hackneyed expression. True, the stereotyped pattern varies slightly between different groups, but there would seem to be no reason why a clever speaker could not preach tonight to Calvinists, tomorrow to Arminians, the next day to Pentecostals, the next to Holiness people, and successively to Separatists and Adventists, and preach acceptably to each one by the simple expedient of finding out what they were conditioned to expect and giving it to them.
A clever man could do this, I say, but an honest man would not. And the reason the clever man could do it is that the ability to create a specific pattern of words is all that is demanded of the speaker. That he may be talking about something he has never experienced to people who do not understand him seems not to occur to anyone. The reassuring drone of safe and familiar religious phrases is enough to give the listeners an enjoyable sense of well-being. The absence of reality is not even noticed.
A Christian is among other things a witness, and as such he speaks of those things which he has personally experienced. The Bible was, for the most part, written by men who saw and heard certain great realities and reported on them. "I saw" and "I heard" are familiar Old Testament expressions, and the New Testament literally pulsates with life and experience. John's vivid words are a sample:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard (1 John 1:1-3).
Itching ears are tuned to hear what they want to hear. Our inclination is to so accommodate them. But words God uses to speak to and change people through us are those words of truth that we ourselves have personally proved to be true.
I confess, Lord, that at times I want to hear only soothing, assuring words. But Your Word through those who are living it, forces me to see who I am and who You want me to be.