I have been watching the series “Victoria” which is based on the life of England’s Queen Victoria. The formality that structured those times and the upper classes is almost incomprehensible to me. I am glad that we can ‘just be ourselves.’ Expectations have changed so much even in a generation. My Dad, a pastor, wouldn’t have gone to his pulpit without a dark suit and a tie, ever! I wear blue jeans and an open collared shirt most Sundays. Dad did not share his struggles in his preaching, not so much because of pride, but because he did not think it was proper to do. Because of his careful care of that role, he is remembered by many as ‘larger than life.’ I live transparently and my congregation probably knows too much about my humanity.
Do you bring the informality of our time into your relationship with your Heavenly Father? There are both good and bad in that. If we casual approach Him as “the Big Guy in the sky” it is a serious mistake. “Hey, God, what’s up?” probably is not the best opening to a meaningful time of prayer. Yes, I am thankful for the conversational prayer is now the norm for many Christians. Fifty years ago, I almost never heard anyone pray in the language everyday life. People tended to pray with the language of the Bible, which was then almost exclusively read in the KJV version, with English from 1611! Is God impressed by Shakespearean English or by prayers that are filled with Biblical quotes? Of course not! But, flippant prayers that are the equivalent of a text message, somehow miss the majesty of the Lord. For all our informality, we need to realize that there is good reason for thoughtful, reverent engagement with Presence of our God.
If we ponder His majesty deeply, if we offer adoration, confession, and petitions that reflect more than greeting card sentiments, we will learn to trust Him more, to bend our wills to Him readily. Yes, He is our Friend, but He is not our Buddy!
There is a story that offers you and me a caution about losing our sense of awe for the Lord. The sons of Eli (1 Samuel) grew up around holy things and developed an unhealthy irreverence. When they were entrusted with service in the work of God, the Bible tells us that because they had no fear of the Lord, they took the best of the people’s sacrifices for themselves. They took advantage of those who came seeking God’s comfort. They even used the sacred trust of their office to enrich themselves at God’s expense! “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. … This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.” (1 Samuel 2:12,17, NIV)
We need to recover a healthy sense of ‘the fear of the Lord’ both personally and in our corporate worship. Are we too often guilty of rushing into His presence, whether privately or in our church gatherings, to sing songs with half a heart, to hear sermons with half a mind, to pray only sleepy prayers as we drift off to sleep? We must not let our informal approach to life in 21st century American cause us to make the “Great I AM” into the Divine Buddy!
When was the last time you sat in the Presence of the Lord simply overwhelmed to the point of silence because of His awesomeness?
When was the last time that you pondered His amazing Majesty?
When did you just confess His greatness, humbled, obedient before the great “I AM”?
This is no argument for turning God into a remote, unapproachable Person. Jesus Christ loves us. He walks with us. The Holy Spirit comforts us. Yet, we need a real awe which Proverbs reminds us is the fountainhead of wisdom! “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” (1.7) the Bible says.
Jesus held children in his arms, extended forgiveness to an adulterous woman, and fed hungry crowds. I love the picture of His humanity. But, that is not the whole of who He is. Revelation tells us about Him being “in a robe and gold breastplate, hair a blizzard of white, Eyes pouring fire-blaze, both feet furnace-fired bronze, His voice a cataract, right hand holding the Seven Stars, His mouth a sharp-biting sword, his face a perigee sun.” (Revelation 1:13-16, The Message) John, who had been the disciple beloved by Jesus, tells us that “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” (Revelation 1:17, NLT) Jesus touched John and told him not to be overcome with terror! But there was real awe!
Here is a word from the Word. May it help us to balance our informality with reverence.
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. …
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.” (Psalm 96:4-6, 9 NLT)
You are beautiful beyond description,
Too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension,
Like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom,
Who can fathom the depth of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Majesty enthroned above.
And I stand, I stand in awe of You.
I stand, I stand in awe of You.
Holy God, to whom all praise is due,
I stand in awe of You.
C 1987 People Of Destiny International