Someone recently said to me – jokingly – that the most dangerous place for humans isn’t in an airplane or in traffic. The most dangerous place in the United States for you is in your own bed since more people die there than anywhere else. We can all see that though that statement might be true it is also ridiculous.
But what about your soul? Where is the most dangerous place for you spiritually? If drunkenness is the worst sin you can think of then maybe a bar or a club is the place that comes to your mind. Maybe for you it is sex outside of marriage and so darkened street corners are what you think of. Or maybe you are shocked at the vast amounts of time that people spend listlessly in front of their T.V.’s or computer screens and so for you it is the couch at home that you identify as the most dangerous place for your soul. While all of these places may be dangerous for your soul, I think there is one place far more dangerous: the pews in your local church (chairs, stadium seating or whatever seating arrangement your assembly has).
One of the things that has gotten my attention recently as I have been reading my Bible has been the number of times that God’s people come seeking God’s word only to disregard it when it isn’t what they wanted or expected. Jeremiah 42:1-43:3 is a perfect example of this. Everyone who is left in the land after Jerusalem had been conquered and the exiles taken away come to Jeremiah seeking God’s word on what they should do. Knowing that they don’t have the greatest history of heeding God’s word they assure Jeremiah that no matter what God says they will do it (42:1-6). But once Jeremiah returns to them after having received God’s word and explains to them what God says they reject it (43:1-3) even though God had made clear through Jeremiah that should they disobey and neglect his word then they would be severely judged (42:13-22). This scene gets played over and over again throughout the Old Testament and Israel and on into the New Testament.
Sometimes we neglect and reject God’s word out of outright rebellion as the people in Jeremiah’s day did. I see this happening regularly in our churches when God’s word presents an inconvenient truth. It is always a curiosity to me when someone who has clearly been living a life of selfish rebellion against God and sinning against his/her family then is interested in whether God’s word allows for divorce in their situation. Or when someone who has a long pattern of disregarding and disobeying God’s word wants to argue about a point of theology. I wish I could say I didn’t understand this at all but I have a sinful heart and so I see this strand of rebellion in me as well and, by the grace of God in the power of his Spirit, I execute it daily (or try to).
But generally Christians are far more crafty (or at least our idolatrous hearts are). Instead we rebel by neglecting God’s word for the sake of our traditions (Matt. 15:1-9) or comforts. And just because you might attend a young hip church whose worship style and practices don’t resemble anything like that of the traditional church with its over-bearing organ and robed choirs don’t be fooled for a second into thinking that you don’t have any traditions. All churches have their traditions. So whether we drown the true hearing of God’s word with “lights and big drums” or suffocate it with old school traditions matters little. The reality is that it is far too easy to get caught up in the packaging and miss the substance.
What I am not suggesting here is that you strip down your church of every possible tradition (that in and of itself is a tradition that goes back a long time). What I am suggesting here is that we reserve our sharpest attention and best thoughts for the preaching of the Word of God and dedicate ourselves to obeying it throughout the week. This means that we are to be less captivated by the artistic gifts of our church’s choir or band, less concerned with whether everyone is wearing clothes we think are “conservative” or “cool” enough, and even less preoccupied with the list of activities and events that litter the church bulletin (or whatever you find yourself thinking about). We must devote ourselves to the word of God, praying that God’s Spirit would open our eyes so that we might see the truths that we must believe and reaffirm and hold fast to them so that God, by his word, may confront our rebellion whether it is outright or hidden behind a mask of traditions. We must also plead with God’s Spirit to awaken in us hearts that are soft to his word so that we might feel the full weight of God’s word upon our souls and tremble before the one who lives forever and ever.
I realize this is only Thursday and so it may seem like an odd post since it might be better to read something like this on a Saturday. But my hope is that this post will help you think about your plans for Saturday so that you might be better preparedto hear God’s Word Sunday morning.
What are some other ways we marginalize and endanger our hearing of God’s Word?