Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How Can Any Good Come from the Church?

The Church is messed up, and Christians are messed up people.  Often we see the mess that is the Church and wonder, "How can we possibly be God's instrument of redemption in the world?" (Matt 5:13-16; Matt 28:18-20) When we look in our hearts and sin our own sin, we may wonder, "how can it be that the Holy Spirit is in me making me to be like Christ? I don't think I look much like him at all!!" (Phil 2:12-13; 2 Cor 3:14-17; 4:7ff).  When we see such darkness, what hope can we have? Can God really make good out of this?

I am slowly reading through the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament.  This week took me through Ezekiel 36-37.  Ezekiel 36 is one of the great promise chapters of the Bible.  It is where God promises to bring a new covenant to his people, a new agreement between God and man, to turn their stoney hearts into hearts of "flesh."  Another way to say it is that God promises in Ezekiel 36 to make his hard-hearted people into soft-hearted people, people who are receptive to God and his ways.  

This promise comes out of nowhere, and in the context of the whole Book of Ezekiel, is a bit of a surprise.  You see, if you ever sit down and just start reading through the book of Ezekiel, you'll see that it paints a rather grim picture of the state of God's people.  Chapters 25-35 are filled with prophecies of woe (go look up that word) and with predictions of the judgment of God on all sorts of evil people, including God's own people.  

Then suddenly, after all this evil and judgement, God promises to make it good.  And to me, even as I know that these passages in Ezekiel 36 apply to me as a follower of Christ, I had a hard time believing them.  It was the same old question:  "Can God really make this good, a soft heart that obeys him and loves good things, out of what I see in me?"  

Then I read the next chapter, Ezekiel 37.  It is the story of the valley of dry bones.  God shows Ezekiel a vision: it is a whole valley filled with human bones.  And God asks Ezekiel, "What do you think, Ezekiel, can these bones live?"  Now, imagine a fall filled with bleached sun-dried bones and skulls... and someone asking you that question.  What God does next is amazing:  He brings these bones to life!! He puts flesh on them, and these piles of bones become a vast army, very alive.  And how God does this is amazing:  he uses Ezekiel's prophesying to bring life to these bones.  

Now in this vision, God is telling us something amazing: Where things seem impossibly dead, God can make life.

When the Church worldwide seems impossibly broken: God can mend it.  

When our own hearts seem insurmountably dark: God can bring light.  

You are never too far gone for God.  And neither is anyone you know.  

Through the most mundane things, the teaching of the Bible, and through the work of the Sprit of God, new life can be made even in the greatest places of death and pain.  


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