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For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

The Word of God is not a neutral thing. Based on one’s response to God’s spoken Word it can give life or it can give one over to death. Thus, coming to church can be a dangerous thing. Because when we come to church we sit under this Word.

We do not come and judge the word. We tend to think of ourselves as the judge of everything. We judge what ice cream we like, what we are going to wear, what TV shows we find acceptable and enjoyable, and many other things. But when we come to the Word of God the judge’s seat is taken from us. And this happens whether we think it does or not. God’s Word is the authority not us. His Word is the based by which all things are measured.

The Word judges us. The Word of God takes the judges seat and gives its pronouncement about our lives. The reality is we do not render judgment about the bible, even when we think we do! Instead we are judged by our response to what the Word says and its pronouncements are true no matter one’s response. If one stood condemned under the laws of our land their response would mean nothing. Their condemnation and punishment is final and real. And we are in the same state. We can either submit to the bible’s pronouncements or we cover our ears, and thus our hearts, and try to ignore it. But doing that leads to dangerous consequences.

We can become hardened by our refusal to heed the pronouncements of God’s Word. This is the frightening part. If we refuse to listen and so take the life offered to us we will become harden. Every time we refuse to heed the Word of the Lord another layer of lies encases our hearts. This builds up silently but firmly. The Word which would offer us life becomes death to us as our heart becomes more and more encased in the lies we tell ourselves to cloud out the Word’s pronouncements.

This should communicate a fearful respect of the Word and give warning. This Word is not a neutral thing to stand back render opinions about. It is a pronouncement to continually heed and enjoy or reject and be condemned by. We should know that we are not spectators when the Word is preached to us. We are having very life and death put before us! Our response to it, by the working of the Holy Spirit, will determine which one we obtain. But we should not think that just sitting and hearing the Word Sunday after Sunday, in and of itself, is a good thing. Indeed, it can be a deadly thing!

If we, however, cease putting up our lies and fall in submission to this Word we find the opposite of death: life! For the Word to us is simple at its heart, “Repent and believe!” Repent of your sin of not obeying the Word of the Lord. And believe in the finished work of Christ for all your payment of sin and restored relationship with God! That is the Word to us! When we heed this Word fear, shame, and guilt are gone and righteousness, power, and hope our ours. A new heart is given and we will find the commands of the Lord sweeter than the honey comb! Oh, that we would respond to God’s Word like this and find true life! May church not prove dangerous but life to you!

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Suppose you are in a car race and your enemy, who doesn’t want you to finish the race, throws mud on your windshield. The fact that you temporarily lose sight of your goal and start to swerve, does not mean that you are going to quit the race. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong race track. Otherwise the enemy wouldn’t bother you at all. What it means is that you should turn on your windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow, our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether, by grace, we set in motion a process of resistance—whether we  fight back against the unbelief of anxiety. Will we turn on the windshield
wipers and will we use our windshield washer?

. . . The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief, and the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit. The battle to be freed from sin, as we have seen, is “by the Spirit and by faith in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). The work of the Spirit and the Word of the truth. These are the great faith builders.

Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit, the wipers of the Word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief. Both are necessary—the Spirit and the Word. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of his Spirit. And as the windshield clears so that we can see the welfare that God plans for us (Jer 29:11), our faith grows stronger and the swerving anxiety smooths out.

-John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1995), pp. 55, 56

HT: Justin Taylor

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