When we follow our doctor's orders and take the medicine, it works in our body and we're healed. The medicine interacts with the sickness or disease and our body reacts. We don't know how medicine works in our bodies. We don't see how it works either. In the same way, God's Word works in our lives. We don't know how it works in our hearts and soul. We don't see it forgive sin and give us new life. The Lord prescribes His Word for what ails us. We take it, hear it, swallow it, and we're given eternal life by it.
On the other hand, when our taste for physical gratification outpaces our desire to hear, and read, and imbibe God's Word, then we'll be carried away by our cravings. We'll lose any sense of self-restraint. We'll make ourselves sick on junk food. We'll lie to ourselves to justify our bad choices to ourselves. We'll gorge ourselves on whatever makes us feel good, no matter how ill it makes us. We'll chase after anything that promises to do for us what can only be received from living in God's Word. Ironically, we become so obsessed with making our own choices, deciding what's best for us, that we're more than willing to let go of God's Word to remain slaves to our cravings.
We don't need preachers. We believe in God, that's good enough. That's not what God's Word says about preachers: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7 NLT)
We don't need to go to church to worship God. We can worship God anywhere. That's not what God's Word says about the Church: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
We don't need Baptism and the Lord's Supper, our faith is enough to save us from sin and death. That's not what God's Word says about Baptism and the Lord's Supper: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) "Baptism now saves you." (1 Peter 3:21) "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me... this is my blood of the testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26, 28) "...as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26)
God's Word reveals the truth about us. We don't much care for God's Word. We prefer the yes and no of our personal taste buds. What pleases us, gives us pleasure, and anesthetizes us to the truth about ourselves is the poison we like to imbibe. Give us a preacher who speaks sugar-coated lies and we'll believe. Teach us that wherever we go the church goes with us, then we'll learn. Encourage us to believe that we don't need baptism or the Lord's Supper so long as we have faith, and we will shout "Amen" from the rooftops. But hold up God's Word to our faces, tell us the diagnosis, prescribe the medicine and we will demand a second and third and fifteenth opinion.
Or we can repent. We can admit that our hearts are evil. We listen because it's tradition. We go to church when it's convenient. We've been taught to say baptism and the Lord's Supper are important but we don't believe it, because we've never seen it really do anything for us. "If God's Word is medicine, it's never cleared up my cough." "God's Word never eased my aches and pains." "My life isn't any better with or without God's Word."
And they'd be right. Our lives aren't any better with or without God's Word. Our lives are vain and valueless without God's Word. Without God's Word preachers are worthless. Churches are a waste of real estate. Baptism is just plain water. The Lord's Supper is a tasteless wafer and a shot of (usually) cheap wine before we walk out the door to our cars.
But, with God's Word, the preacher is an instrument of Good News sent to us to proclaim that Jesus, the Crucified One, is our Lord and Savior. The Church is God's house. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are God's gifts of salvation. Then we're alive in God's Word. And that's what carries us into our homes, jobs, schools, relationships, and everything in our lives. God's Word is the foundation, and walls, and roofing of our lives.
Without God's Word, what we do as a family, our job performance, the grades, and diplomas we earn at school, and the relationships we invest so much of ourselves in are vain and valueless. They're just things that we do to fill the time until we die. But, with God's Word, all of life is a gift from God's fatherly hand, an expression of God's love for us. Law and Gospel. Struggle and comfort. Life and death. Everything is informed and enlivened by God's Word because God's Word is Jesus.
He alone gives us words to pray, songs of praise, comfort and hope, forgiveness, and peace all the days of our lives.