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We began this mini-study by identifying a few weaknesses of today’s American churches. But trust me, we will end on some of her greatest strengths in lesson 6. Please don’t be discouraged. There is much to get excited about!
Believers in the Old Testament may not have worshipped the same way we do, but we share the same malady that threatens our Spirit-and-truth worship. 2 Chronicles 26 paints a detailed portrait of the life of Uzziah, King of Judah. While Israel’s kings were evil, Judah enjoyed the blessings of several kings who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Uzziah was one of those kings. Rather than perfection, God desired submission. “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” (v. 5) However, like you and me, Uzziah suffered from heart disease. Pride threatened to clog the main artery dispensing life-giving humility.
Like all great leaders, Uzziah was proactive; he didn’t just sit back waiting for problems to arise, he planned for them. He constructed towers along the Jerusalem wall and throughout the countryside as an early-warning defense system. While kings of that day generally required soldiers to come up with their own armor and weapons, King Uzziah outfitted his army with the best available equipment. In fact, Uzziah invented new, highly effective ways to shoot arrows and hurl stones at his enemies. He defeated many foes, including the Philistines, one of the long-time nemeses of God’s people. He also developed a system of cisterns to irrigate fields and vineyards. “His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.” (v. 15)
The same Evil who brought sin into the world selected the oldest, sharpest arrow in his quiver to derail the success of a king seeking to do right in the eyes of the Lord. Uzziah’s fame allowed pride to get the best of him. He usurped priestly duties by burning incense in the Temple of the Lord. According to the Law of Moses, only descendants of Aaron were allowed that privilege. Uzziah’s actions caused 80 courageous priests to confront him about his sin. If Uzziah had been a Southerner, we would say he threw a hissy fit over being reprimanded. In the midst of his fit, his forehead broke out with leprosy. Not only had he defiled the Temple with his actions, but now his diseased body also threatened the defilement of everyone present. The priests immediately recognized the leprosy and ushered him outside. To Uzziah’s credit, he knew the Lord had afflicted him so he offered no resistance.
The consequences of pride are always great. Uzziah suffered from leprosy, lost his throne, and lived quarantined the rest of his days. For us, pride can hinder our witness, our worship, and cause our motivation to be questioned. Like Uzziah, churches must be proactive in supplying believers with the best possible tools to effectively combat our long-time, evil nemesis, Satan. We become confident in our success when we are fully equipped for every good work. We must not be fearful of finding innovative ways of encouraging one another and reaching the lost. What worked in 1960 may not work now. We must plan for attacks by holding firmly to the Word of God and seeking Him with all our hearts. Creating nurturing environments that foster deep fellowship with God and other believers establishes a powerful early-warning defense system. Above all, it’s our turn to hold high the Sword of the Spirit.
Uzziah lived under the Old Law, which required many outward acts of obedience in hopes of setting one right with God. Many who obeyed were led by the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish specific tasks. Because of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has now come to live within each believer providing guidance, comfort, and instruction. However, there are two reactions the church must avoid when it comes to the Spirit – and they may not be what you think. First, we must not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) by doing something He has told us not to do. Second, we must not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) by not doing something He tells us to do.
If you grew up like me, you know all about the Don’ts of Being a Christian. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But, seldom did I ever hear anything about quenching the Spirit’s fire. I’m just now seeing how often I do that. When the Spirit moves, the church can humbly surrender or pridefully ignore His presence. Yes, we should run everything through the filter of God’s word, but maybe it’s time to see how often we can say “yes” to the Spirit, rather than fearfully resisting His lead. What if the Spirit is after something He’s been longing to do through us for a very long time, but we’ve never mustered the courage to say “yes?”
“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.” 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, The Message