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A misplaced "Wow!"

 

Have you ended up misplacing your “Wow!”? That is, have you ended up being excited about anything and everything else but the one true God who made it all?

I was preaching on Sunday from the book of Romans, chapter 3. Paul spells out the human condition outside of the grace of God. He tells us that there is no one who is righteous and no one who seeks God (and the two are linked). He doesn’t, by the way, mean that no one does good things or that they don’t seek to follow some idea of a god. What he means is that by nature we do not do what is truly good because we do not do it for God and we do not seek the one true God. We are happy to have our own conceptions of a god that doesn’t greatly interfere with our daily lives. We quite like the idea of a god who may love us just as we are because that allows us to carry on behaving whatever way we think is right. The god we then have is one that is tamed and has a primary role of simply affirming everything that I do, which, of course, means he is actually no god at all. How so? Well if I determine what is right and wrong and my god affirms that choice who has priority? The answer is I do. I make the decisions and my god follows me. I have deliberately put the title of that god with a lower case “g” because that is not the God who rules the universe.

Which leads me to my main point. Paul also tells us that there is no one who fears God. And fear, in this instance, primarily means awe. There is no one who is awestruck by God. He is not reverenced as he ought to be. Paul is talking about humanity before the grace of God intervenes in the lives of many so that this position changes. And what he says is still true today. We either decide that there is no God on the spurious basis that science somehow is said to prove he does not exist when it can do, and does, nothing of the sort. Or we seek to make God manageable. We domesticate him and in the process we lose him. But this is a danger for Christians also. And I am not just talking of those who profess Christianity while denying almost everything that it has historically and biblically stood for. Bible believing Christians can also, it seems to me, fall into a position where we have lost the wow factor. We get excited about lots of things but somehow God is not one of them. We watch a nature programme and we see something remarkable happening and we draw in breath and way “wow!” But we fail to see that without the sustaining work of God this amazing thing could not have happened. In fact it is more than that. The Bible tells us that in Jesus all things hold together (Colossians 1:17) and that through him all things were made (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). Jesus then, is the reason anything amazing can happen at all! And God, our God, created all that is, not just here on earth but in the whole cosmos.

If you have ever watched a programme about the universe I am sure that a sense of awe comes over you as you think of the vast distances involved, the innumerable stars many of them immensely bigger than our own sun, the astonishing power unleashed through novas and other phenomenon, the quasars (“highly energetic cores of extremely distant spiral galaxies”[1]), and so on. It is an astounding cosmic display. But here is the thing. The Bible tells us that all of this was created by God. It existed first in his mind and he spoke and it was so. All that huge energy is, in other words, as nothing compared to that of God himself. All the cosmic displays of brilliance pale into insignificance as against him.

I read recently that quasars are intensely powerful, so much so that “if you came within 1,200,000,000,000,000 miles of one you would be vaporized.”[2] And that power is created by God. And he is in no way exhausted by it. And that power is sustained by God in Christ and neither are exhausted by it. Now just imagine falling into the hands of this God whilst he is still angry at you because you are still in your sins. The Bible talks of God’s fierce anger. Then remember that, if you have trusted in Christ for salvation that anger fell on Jesus rather than on us. (If you haven’t trusted Jesus that anger will, unless you repent, fall on you.) Jesus sets us free to enjoy God and all his awesomeness. We still should fear God in the sense of being awed at how amazing he is. This is no tame deity acting as a sort of cosmic psycho-therapist. This is the awesome, fearsome and dangerous God. In C S Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Mr Beaver is asked if Aslan (the Christ figure) is “quite safe”. He replies "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." And that is what God is like. He is not safe but he is good.

He is dangerous to those who reject him. But for those of us who are Christians he still should evoke reverential awe.

And, as Sam Storms (to whose writings I owe a lot) puts it, this should lead us to marvel at “…the breathtaking reality of divine grace, that in this immense cosmos, amidst the colossal structures of creation, our triune God has focussed all his infinite energy and love and passionate affection on, of all things, broken sinners like you and me.”

Has your “Wow!” been misplaced? Have you been awed only by what was created rather than by the Creator. Then it is time to seek the grace of God to reinstate your awe, your “Wow!” to its righful object, the truly amazing, astounding (superlative exhausting) God.



[1] Sam Storms, One thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2004), 94.

[2] Storms, One thing, 94.

 

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