|I am not a “burn it to the ground” kind of preacher. But some have said I am. Actually, I’m a “rip the band-aid off” person who then wants to do what we say God wants us to do. So, I can see how someone might get that confused.|
Over the course of my pastoral ministry, I’ve heard a lot of what churches want to do for the glory of God. My greatest struggle has been watching us muddle toward the details of bringing them to life. We debate and argue over fine points. By the time we make a decision, we’ve lost the joyful desire to make anything meaningful happen.
Something else happens with our dreams. We get caught up in what we’re used to doing that we don’t have the bandwidth to pursue any new direction from God. Churches are bad about letting things go. That’s a strange trait for people who believe in the resurrection to have. In an unfortunate move, as the church has struggled, we’ve intensified our grasp on the familiar.
How much of our struggle relates to our desire to keep things as we like them?
The result of this is there’s no room for what needs to happen. We’re too busy, tired or comfortable with what is before us at the moment. This is where some might think I want to erase all we know at church. But I don’t.
Early on, the Lord impressed on me the value of the local church. Through the power of God, to be cliche, we are a force to be reckoned with! I’m just not sure bake sales rattle the gates of hell all that much. We have a hard time getting our own people in the church moved by what we’re doing. How can we expect Hades to worry?
In the first chapter of Isaiah, the prophet comes out ready to burn it all to the ground. Judah and Jerusalem’s bleak future is all but set. Even an ox knows who its owner is. But the people of God continue to burden God with their religious veneer. The people need to repent.
There are stark aspects of Isaiah’s vision. God says, “I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.” That’s a burning process. But why does God want to do that? Is it mere punishment?
No, it is a restorative promise.
Although God sees what the people have become, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume they started out wanting to honor God. They didn’t set out to ravage the poor and create injustice. Over time, though, they mixed so much into their faith they couldn’t see what they had become.
Yes, God will judge. But Isaiah’s vision is more than that. “I will restore your judges as at the first,” God says. God’s true motive is restoration and redemption. God’s smelting process is a refining process.
That’s what we miss about what God wants to do in and through us. If God is going to refine us, things might get hot. We will lose things along the way. But we gain God’s restoration. Do we really want to lose that?