“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)
There is significant tension in our city right now. No one can deny that things have been heated lately as the SOGI ordinance has been put to a vote. Bold political signs that have occupied front lawns throughout Springfield will slowly relocate to trash bins. Many have taken to their social media platforms to passionately publish a variety of responses, ranging from hurt to outrage to gratification.
And it’s all quite understandable, really. People on both sides of the issue have felt as though their way of life is being threatened. Many Christians have serious concerns about religious liberty. In fact, we can quickly begin to feel as though these kinds of issues are the greatest threat to the church in our day. But I would contend that our greatest threat does not come from outside the church. It is not the deterioration of Christian values in our culture, serious as that is. No, the greatest threat to the church right now is the church itself. We are our own biggest problem.
What’s Really Going on
In Isaiah 1, God confronts people who appeared to have it all together. Israel looked really impressive. By all indication, they were pious–saying and doing all the right things. They had beautiful, even biblical, forms of worship. But God has a knack for seeing past all our forms. He sovereignly evaluates the heart of the issue. And what He saw in Isaiah’s day displeased Him greatly. In fact, He warned that the next time they spread out their hands to worship Him, He would hide His face; because those same hands, though lifted to praise Him, were drenched in blood (1:15).
What could have possibly displeased God that much? Why is He warning His people like this? Because Israel was using their worship, of all things, to avoid Him. God wasn’t being temperamental; He was being realistic. He knows how self-deceptive humans can be, and He’s not about to let us off the hook for it. No, He’s going to confront and invite us into greater honesty and openness before Him. He wants us to stop fooling ourselves so that we can thrive in our worship of Him.
The truth is that, where repentance is lacking, delight in God will be absent. Far more than our moral and political rectitude, God is after our joyful obedience. Readiness to obey is the culmination of worship that truly delights in Him. And such worship always involves a deep, abiding eagerness to repent of sin. Therefore, it’s entirely possible for the church to have good music, savvy production and compelling sermons, and yet miss God completely. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a congregation to have its moral t’s crossed and its political i’s dotted all while growing cold and dull to His presence. Really, our biggest threat is our propensity to become stale and numb in worship, even as our forms of worship fool us into thinking we are being faithful.
The Decision Is Ours
As God sees it, there are two options before us. And through the prophet Isaiah, He makes it very simple for us to choose. Either, we can take the path of willing obedience and eat the fruit of the land; or we can stubbornly refuse His invitation and rebel our way into irreversible destruction. The decision is ours to make.
On this side of history, we know that the land isn’t a place; it’s a Person. It is Christ, and its fruit is His inexhaustible capacity to satisfy us out of His fullness. If we repent and choose the path of openness before Him, we may lose our sense of cultural prominence and moral oneupmanship. But He will make us far too glad to care. As the old hymn says, “The things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” That’s the power of real repentance.
When we stop all our charades and start beholding Jesus, genuine worship becomes instinctive. Why? Because, to our amazement, He has overcome our biggest problem by removing the countless blemishes of our past and giving us a bright future we could have never obtained apart from Him. In Him, the Gospel moves to the forefront of our experience as our distractions disappear. It exposes us, takes us out of our own self-concerned narrative, and relocates us within the purposes of God. When this happens, all that seems to matter is that, because God has washed us white as snow, we are guaranteed to inherit the land.
So let’s make repentance a priority this Lord’s Day. Our future depends on it. In fact, it matters very little whether you voted “yes” to repeal on Tuesday if you are unwilling to say “yes” to greater delight in God this Sunday. In the Gospel, He has made His position concerning us very clear: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]” (2 Co. 1:20). That’s right, God is saying “yes” to LifePoint Church. And He wants to reason with us this Sunday. Are we paying attention?
Liturgy for Sunday, April 12, 2015:
Call to Worship:
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD. (Isaiah 2:3, 5)
Confession & Assurance:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
Building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, may you keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life. (based on Jude 20-21)
Follow our Spotify playlist for this Sunday.