By God’s amazing providence, I’ve been walking through Hebrews during my personal devotion time, and my husband and I have been studying through Leviticus during our family worship time in the evenings. And there has been a LOT to learn and even more to chew on as the weeks have gone by. There have been a number of things that I thought about writing on (based on what I’ve learned), but I haven’t felt the “push” that gets me to write. I just fall silent when the opportunity comes. But I think I have my thoughts together tonight to say this:
First, God’s holiness still matters today.
I know it may not seem like it. I know that people often talk about their own personal way of discovering God and having a relationship with Him. I know that people do all sorts of crazy and random things during worship services today. I know that a lot of churches are far different now than they used to be under the banner of being more “modern” and “culturally sensitive”. And I also know that people still think that God loves them just the way they are, but we all know Christ came because He could not love us the way we were. His holiness could not and cannot be compromised. His holiness is a nonnegotiable. You cannot get around it. You cannot ignore it. God’s holiness is the sum total of all of His perfections.
And because of His holiness, He actually has prescribed the way that we ought to worship Him. If you doubt that, then I would highly recommend that you study your way through the Bible. No one could just worship God the way they wanted. They had to worship Him rightly….by the way He prescribed. And I think that that is something that we really need to be more mindful of today. We don’t get away from old sins. They just get repackaged, and we think it’s an entirely different issue. But I think the Word offers us an excellent exhortation on this matter in Genesis 4:3-7:
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Like Cain, we all face the temptation to worship God however we want to, and we get mad when we’re told that some other way is more acceptable to God. We may even try to find ways to justify our own decisions and preferences, but when we reject and ignore what God has clearly commanded us in Scripture, like Cain, we only deceive ourselves and fall further into sin. You cannot ignore or diminish any aspect of the holiness of God, and if you do, you do it to your own detriment.
The second thing I want to say is that the Church is instituted by God, and we ought always to respect it, submit to its authority, and love it.
The Church is not man’s invention. It was not a “bright idea” that just happened. It is not an option for the Christian. It is not a matter of convenience. It is not a place for you to further your personal agenda. It is not something you can just walk away from because you’re upset or angered. It’s the Church. It’s God’s Church. It’s Christ’s body and Bride. And if you think that you can grow in faith and grace without it or separated from it, you deceive yourself.
But I don’t think that we have a natural love for the Church. I think that we tend to have a love for the people we like at our church. We may love how our pastor preaches. We may love the music and worship. We may even love the timing of the service. But in reality we struggle to love the Church as a whole because we see so many problems with it. I get that, and I too struggled with that. But as Christians, our constant prayer should be that God would raise our affections and deepen our love for Him and His Church…that He would open our eyes so that we may see it as He sees it and carry a genuine burden for it in our hearts. Our love ought to abound for the Church, and I think that this 4 ½ minute sermon clip emphasizes this point. (You can hear the entire sermon here. It is worthwhile.)
We need to do this. The Church is under attack, and our enemy is cunning and using every avenue he can to attack. We need the Lord to do this work within our hearts so that we are more watchful, more fervent in prayer, more discerning, exercising more godly wisdom, living more courageously as we confront those attacks head on and deal with the repercussions, and so that our love continues to abound fervently for the Church. We also need to be more sure of what we believe, why we believe it, and have a godly zeal for our churches to operate faithfully in accordance with the Scriptures.
We cannot be lazy and ungrounded Christians. We cannot walk in the Spirit without a solid and thorough understanding of the very Word of God the Spirit of God has breathed out for us. We cannot walk wisely as Christians if we are not taking the time to practice and work out what we do know. Times are getting tight, if you haven’t noticed. And to be lax or exert half-hearted diligence to your Christian walk will mean that you will likely drift further and further away as time goes on (this was an excellent article on the future of the religious left). So I think Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians is still needed today:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The final thing that I want to say is that we need to keep our eyes and minds focused heavenward on Christ.
I think the parable of the sower is an extremely well-known parable, and it’s also one of the easiest parables to understand because Jesus explained what it meant. My point in bringing this up is an exhortation made in this parable in Mark 4:18-19 about the seed sown among the thorns. It reads:
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
That is a sobering warning to all of us, and I am concerned about how seriously Christians today are taking that warning. There are countless things that compete for our attention, that stir up our desires, and that steal our affections and hearts away from Christ. Practically everything in our lives can become serious distractions that slowly steal us away from Christ. But we have to stand guard even against our own sinful selves too. Everything from worry and excessive concern about issues, endlessly searching for solutions to personal problems, allowing our passions to rule over us, having some little ties to this perishing world, and more can enter into our lives and choke the very life-giving Word out so that we grow more and more unfruitful as time goes on. Colossians 3:1-4 says:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
We are told to seek those things that are above where Christ is, to set our minds on those things. As someone who has been giving more attention and diligence to meditating on the Word and communing with God this year, I will tell you that actively seeking those things that are above and setting your mind up there takes a lot of work! And it is not a “one time” kind of thing. It’s ongoing. It requires diligence and effort. It requires practice. But most importantly, it is required of the Christian, and we need to be obedient to this command.
Drawing to a close…
Honestly, there is just so much I’ve wanted to say lately. I see stuff all the time that really stirs me up for a while, but it’s all fallen flat as of late. I have a burden for the Church, for all of God’s people. I’m deeply saddened by a lot of stuff that I’m seeing and hearing from Christians on a variety of topics, but honestly this race issue has me more grieved than anything else. I feel the temptation to despair as this has gone on for such a long time, but I am not confused about what is going on. We have a foe, and his name is Satan. And he is and will continue to do everything possible to undermine Christ, destroy His Church, and steal His people by any means necessary and available.
That being said, I wholeheartedly believe we need to get back to the Word of God. We need to roll up our sleeves and get ourselves real rooted and grounded in it. We’re in a war, and we need to walk soberly, wisely, and pay careful attention to ourselves and each other because that Word, along with prayer, is our only defense. I’ll just end here with this reminder from Hebrews 10:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.