We're studying this in preparation for our worship gathering at Crossroads on Feb. 8.
What is needful is that the Father's heart for us be fully expressed and his will wholly accomplished in us. Each time the Living Word breaks through, his goal is the same: personal address. Authentic encounter.www.equalsharing.com
If the Word does not address us in the reality of our lives, where things are brutish, hard, and cruel, then we fail to allow the Word to be God's Word to and for us. His Word gets relegated to the nonessential category of words we might listen to, or might not, depending on our mood at the moment, words that are alternately interesting, arresting, or unappealing. In the end though, whatever descriptive label we append to them, they are just words. Rather than standing under the Word and its full weight of conviction, grace, and power, we stand over the words we hear and bring our judgment to them. Do they please us? Do they satisfy us? Do they tell us what our itching ears wish to hear? We are prone, after all, to fill up on spiritual junk food and run after catchy opinions that tickle our fancy.
For example, take the typical response of church-goers after sitting through a sermon we do not care for. Not liking the sermon, we conjure up all the reasons-theologically and presentationally--why it fell short of the glory of God. However, nice, polite church folk don't come right out with severe evaluations of the morning message; instead we offer the pious-sounding assessment, "I didn't get much out of the sermon today. It didn't really feed me. It didn't minister to me."
The remark gives the appearance of thoughtful reflection and spiritual depth. With such statements we may fool ourselves and others, but we can never fool God. He who is truth knows its opposite when he hears it and sees it. "I didn't get much out of the sermon today" is us standing in judgment of the words we heard. But when the living Word comes forth, even when it is not handled skillfully or delivered with distinction, it always addresses us,not we it. Evaluating sermons (or the worship set or the building or anything else) is just a technique for dodging the divine Word that exposes our vulgarity, our pride, our vanity. God's Word is the Word that is over us in order that it might be life to us and for us.
The Word of God strips away pretense and posturing. It disarms our arguments and exposes our self-adulation. It doesn't do this sometimes. It does it every time. No exceptions. We have our opinions and perspectives; we live in a culture that trumpets tolerance as an absolute virtue. You have your point of view and I have mine. What works for you is good. What works for me is good. Whether or not it is true, right, and virtuous is less important than a pragmatic embracing of the perspective that all opinions are equal and tolerance is next to godliness. Ironically, God will have none of this. He is, you might say, intolerant of this point of view. All viewpoints are not equal and truth is not relative. There is a Word before which all other words must give way.
"This is not good for me." Human words. Our words on the situation we're in, our take and our talk. "You don't know what's good for you." God's word over our word, silencing our word. When it's his Word, whether severe and corrective or sweet and comforting, there are no other words to be said.
"You don't know what's good for you." God's Word. We can feel the weight of it. It is not offered up for negotiation or appraisal. It just is. No wonder Jesus warns those who follow him, who stand under his Word in all its terrible beauty and authority, "Family. Friends. Reputation. Kiss me hello and you'll kiss them goodbye. My way is the way of the cross."