Part one and part two I started by asking the question, why the church? If the church is full of sinners, and there are plenty of other “sinner-included” options, why do we commit to showing up from week to week?
It’s where God is speaking.
“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” -Isaiah 55:3
His Ways are Higher than our Ways
When I think about God, I used to think about his holiness, sovereignty, his unmatched power, and his highness. These things make sense to us.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
God is in a league of his own. God is the KING. What doesn’t make sense is this God’s lowness, his humility, and dare we say, his weakness. God’s don’t die. God’s don’t tolerate unfaithfulness. God’s don’t pardon their enemies–they annihilate them. This just doesn’t make sense.
What kind of god dies naked on a cross? What god forgives, not just minor offenses and mistakes, but heinous sins? That is so un-god-like.
But this is the God of the Scriptures. It’s not just the highness of God’s ways that are not our ways. It’s the lowness of his ways that are not our ways.
It’s the lowness of God, taking on the same humanity we have. It’s the nothingness of a birth to nobodies, Mary & Joseph, in a nowhere town, Bethlehem, celebrated only by other nobodies, shepherds and gentiles. It’s the death of God, Jesus Christ crucified, between two thieves, that doesn’t make sense. That’s not the way we would do it. But this is who he is. And this is his word to us, the word of Christ:
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:6-11 ESV)
His ways are not just the word or the Law, which says “do this” and it’s never done, but the word of Christ which says “believe this” and it’s done already. At church, on Sundays, through a preacher, God is speaking these words. And where God is speaking, God is working.
The Word Does the Work
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:10-11
Most know Martin Luther as the protestant reformer, but Luther was a Catholic monk who did not want a split or to divide the Catholic church. In 1515 while preparing a lecture on Romans 2, the phrase “The just shall live by faith” captured his attention and caused him to reexamine his understanding of the Scripture. Just two years later, 1517, Luther nailed 95 theses to the Wittenberg door in Germany, disputing the practice of “indulgences” the payment for a dead relative’s release from purgatory. Luther was asked to recant, but could not saying “here I stand I can do no other.” Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic church, but continued to preach and write and the protestant reformation was ignited. Luther knew it wasn’t his work:
“Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble…. I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.” -Luther’s Works
This is how God’s word works. Like the rain that falls, watering the earth:
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
We come to church because it is where God is speaking, he speaks both Law & Gospel. Where God is speaking, God is working.