We live in an age in which everything has become trivialised and demeaned. We do not take things very seriously anymore, except perhaps ourselves. Sadly this disposition seems to have penetrated much of the church as well. And it becomes most apparent in our attitude toward the God of the universe.
Today we tend to see God as our pal, our buddy, our mate. Moreover, for many believers, he exists for us and our needs. He is a celestial butler, waiting to do what we ask of him. He has become far too common, too ordinary, too stripped of his majesty, holiness and awe-fulness.
The fear of God has largely disappeared amongst us, as has his terror and his absolute holiness. Jesus fares even worse. He is not much more than a pop star to many, or a celebrity. One recent Christian song was based on this refrain: “I like Jesus more than ice cream”.
Well, I am glad the creator of the universe gets a slightly higher ranking than ice cream. I am glad the one who suffered a horrible death so that we might be set free from our sin-soaked life is up there with Baskin-Robbins 31 flavours.
Jesus is now little more than a pop icon or a cool dude. He is no longer viewed as Scripture presents him. Jesus is certainly a loving, compassionate and gracious figure. But he is not just that. Consider just one passage from the Book of Revelation:
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11-16).
One way to see how different our attitudes to God are from those who have gone before is to simply see what an encounter with God resulted in as we read Scripture or study church history. Throughout the Bible we find people finding a meeting with God to be a fearful and terrible thing.
When people came into God’s presence, they knew they were somewhere special, and a proper holy fear and reverence always overtook them. Consider just a few such encounters. When Moses encountered God, this was the first thing he heard: “‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground’” (Exo 3:5).
When Isaiah had an encounter with the Almighty we read of the result: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty’” (Is 6:5).
Or consider Ezekiel’s meeting with God: “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown (Ezek 1:28). And when John encountered the risen Christ, this was the result: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17).
Indeed, most times when we read about a mere man encountering God, prostration and worship were the only possible outcome. Indeed, the two terms come from the same Hebrew term. A proper response to God was to fall prostrate before him, worshipping and adoring him.
Do yourself a favour, and do a study of all the times men and women of God found themselves flat on their faces as they met and worshipped the one true and living God. And it may not be a bad practice for us modern believers to cultivate on a regular basis. We need to see more believers with carpet burns on their faces.
Great saints of God have also spoken to this issue. A. W. Tozer could say this: “The Scriptures declare, ‘Abram fell on his face’ as the Lord talked with him (Genesis 17:3). Abraham was reverent and submissive. Probably there is no better picture anywhere in the Bible of the right place for mankind and the right place for God. God was on His throne speaking, and Abraham was on his face listening!”
Or as he said elsewhere: “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.”
And Leonard Ravenhill put it this way, for example: “I’m sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What’s supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can’t speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they’re talking football, or sports or something, or there’s going to be a big sale downtown somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity!”
And again, “Do you go to church to meet God or to hear a sermon about Him? How many come to church expecting a confrontation with Deity?” C.S. Lewis had this right as he depicted God in his Narnia series. Aslan the Lion was the Christ figure, and Lewis made sure that people got him right. As he put it in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe:
“‘Is – is he a man?’ asked Lucy. ‘Aslan a man!’ said Mr. Beaver sternly. ‘Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.’ ‘Ooh,’ said Susan, ‘I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’ ‘That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,’ said Mrs. Beaver; ‘if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.’ ‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you’.”
Or as Lewis put it in The Last Battle: “‘Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?’ said Tirian. ‘Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He’s not a tame lion’.” I let Tozer once again have the last word:
“Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge. He is the fairest among ten thousand, but He is also the Lord high and mighty. He is the friend of sinners, but He is also the terror of devils. He is meek and lowly in heart, but He is also Lord and Christ who will surely come to be the judge of all men. No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presence.”