So, here’s the story: Last night I went to bed with hopes of falling asleep without delay, but as I lay there communing with my Creator, I began praying for heart-holiness, both for myself and for His church. As often happens when I pray for Christ-likeness, I began weeping, and the more I contemplated the contrast between Christ and myself, the more my tears flowed. I heard myself sobbing, both from grief and gratitude; I felt a sense of the Holy Spirit’s grief about my soulish stubbornness, and unbearable gratitude for God’s grace despite my failure to apprehend the victory I have in Christ Jesus.
Then, this morning’s Our Daily Bread devotional cited Lamentations 3:1-6, 16-25, where the weeping prophet Jeremiah mourned Jerusalem’s destruction and the Jews’ subsequent captivity. So in typical fashion, I lumped both experiences into a single conceptual stew.
God is disciplining His church in much the same way that He disciplined His people Israel, albeit with His New Covenant grace.
- As Jeremiah cried out warnings about Israel’s wandering ways, God’s New Testament writers warn His church about our own carnality.
- As Israel ignored the prophet’s warnings, most of today’s church lie comfortably in our worldly affluence, enjoying our Sunday religious lift while snoring through our godly preachers’ warnings.
- As Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, popular culture is destroying the institutional church.
- As Babylon carried Israel’s intelligentsia into captivity, the world system is co-opting the church’s theologians.
- As Babylon absorbed Israel into its own culture, the world system is defiling God’s church through our preoccupation with its entertainments, its trendy styles, and its pursuit of youthful image.
Though we have much reason to grieve, we have far more reason to rejoice; none of this surprises our omniscient God, and His plan for our triumph over the world system is, and always has been, in place. Yes, I still mourn for those of His church who will never awaken from their slumber, but I rejoice for the faithful remnant who heed His warnings, becoming incorruptible salt and prevailing light for this stale and dark world. Like God’s people Israel, the church’s exile is only temporary, and we have the Great Hope of our eternal homecoming, where our tears will cease and we will commune with our Lord Jesus face-to-face.