I bow down towards your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you exalted above all things your name and your word.” Psalm 138:2 (ESV)
As I said in my last post(s!), I’ve been thinking about what it really means to follow God’s lead and exalt “His Name and His Word” as exalted above everything else. And as I said… there’s a problem: If God truly has “exalted above all things His Name and His Word” then we must seek to do the same, especially in our corporate assembly. It is this assembly – “church” - that marks us, defines us and, for all practical purposes, it is the thing that makes us “us.” Without the assembly, we can not function as a body.
I trust that you can see why the local church is so important in God’s plan and purpose. It is His Body incarnate and it is the visible and tangible corporate evidence of His presence… He is present uniquely when we “gather” (Matthew 18:20). So if we are His body when we gather, then we must share His priorities in our gathering. We MUST exalt His Name and His Word above ALL OTHER THINGS.
But that begs the question: Do we exalt God’s Name and His Word above all things as well – especially in our church gatherings?
Consider this with me: Is it possible that, despite all of the good we seek to do, we might actually prioritize other things over a true focus on God and His glory and His Word?
I think it is more than possible… I’m saddened because it actually is happening, our evangelical sub-culture has elevated LOTS above God’s Name and Word. Perhaps your local church is free from this problem, but some churches in fact do not exalt God’s Name and His Word above all other things; instead, they exalt other things above God’s Name and His Word, focusing instead on other things.
Ok, I’m getting into deep water here, aren’t I? So before I talk further about the problem, let me say this as a disclaimer:
So… here's the problem as I see it: The evangelical church system, as a practical matter - exalts man over God. We wouldn't want to say it, and we may not even think it, but we do not exalt God's Name over all things. And if you have a hard time seeing that part of the problem, we absolutely, most certainly do not exalt God's Word over all things.
I want to make it clear to who ever reads this that I take no pleasure in pointing out this problem, (which, by the way, isn’t just a “problem”… it is sin). There is, after all, a perception that people who do point out others sin are arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees, pointing out the specks in other people’s eyes and missing the logs in their own. And sometimes – all too often – that perception is sadly accurate.
But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a warning that ought to be heard. I’m certainly not claiming “prophet” status, and I acknowledge that I am a flawed person who is frequently wrong. But if I’m right in identifying this problem, we as a sub-culture are in danger or pursuing the wrong priorities and are offending the God of the universe! If that problem exists, wouldn’t it be important to focus on it – no matter how painful it might be to hear? “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).
And the same problem I see in our sub-culture can be my problem, too - if I'm not willing to look carefully at myself. So, in a spirit of humility, I'll say what I see… and I’m praying for me, and for you as my reader, that “the eyes of [our] hearts would be enlightened…" Ephesians 1:18. And you might consider Gamaliel’s admonition when you read my thoughts here: “…if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39)
No, we really don’t.
I’m grateful that God understands our weakness and imperfection (Psalm 103:14); He recognizes that we are still a “work in progress” (1 Corinthians 13:12); and He even takes ownership of perfecting both our will and our actions in the sanctification process (Philippians 2:13).
But we have a responsibility too… one which we are to “work out with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). And while I take great comfort in the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life – we live in the paradoxical world of both sovereignty and responsibility. And in acknowledging “the problem,” I’m not saying that God can’t or won’t address it… He will. I’m confident in His sovereignty, but I'm also burdened about the exercise of our responsibility.
So as I said last time, if you’ve come with me this far, consider holding on over the next couple posts to decide if you agree with me, and we'll consider “the problem” in practice by thinking about this:
- What we do in our corporate assembly matters to God;
- How we do what we do also matters to God; and
- Who we are as we follow Him matters as well.
Tonight: "What" is the problem