079. “Awe in the presence of an awesome God.” Matthew 22:37-40

Many years ago I was very challenged by the words of the late A. W. Tozer who described worship as the “missing jewel of the evangelical church”. I have often pondered his words and see now even more clearly how right he was. Evangelical religion has much to commend it especially in the way it takes the word of God seriously as inspired by Him. In fact it takes God seriously so that much missionary activity has come from those of evangelical background and conviction trying to bring the truth of God to those who have never heard it.

But it is possible for any of us to lose our primary focus which should be on obeying the commandment Jesus called the greatest and first commandment. That is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV). One of the sadnesses of modern day religion is seeing how often people have ignored or neglected the first commandment in trying to obey the second commandment. But as I have shown previously, the first commandment sets the boundaries and guidelines for what is involved in loving one’s neighbour as oneself. Any action or word that God sees as unacceptable in His sight cannot be entertained as loving a neighbour if it is condemned by God Himself. It is total commitment to God that the first commandment envisages and anything that He declares as sinful or wrong can never be done by one person to another in so-called “love” or in “love for one’s neighbour”.

It is not only the wrong things that can be displeasing to God. It is anything that takes His place. Instead of having a sense of awe in the presence of God many act as though He was not present among His people. How the Spirit of God must be grieved when people act as though God were not there to hear their conversation or to witness their behaviour. It is as though they have no sense of the holiness and the majesty of God. They fail to be in awe of Him.

I remember hearing the words of the hymn “I exalt Thee” many years ago and finding a great release in expressing a sense of awe at the majesty of God as I sang the words. It was like “pure worship” as I expressed my desire to exalt Him in every area of my life. Many friends had the same experience. These were the challenging words of the song,

For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord

It was a surprise to me that many of my acquaintances at that time found such words uncomfortable to sing. They seemed to be threatened by the deep personal expression of reverence to God. However it is all so easy to get our focus wrong as we live in a world that doesn’t focus on God or stand in awe of Him. The world does “squeeze us into its mould” as JB Phillips famously translated Romans 12:2. The people of God need to break the mould and focus once again on the majesty of God as seen throughout His word. And to express their love and adoration to Him.

I recently read an article that I found challenging and helpful. The link here will take you to the article and I hope you find it as challenging as I did. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/06/24/awe-puts-us-in-our-place/

It helped to explain why some believers don’t seem to have a sense of awe towards God. They have focussed on other things, often good things, and not on the Lord Himself. They seem to have lost their first love. This love returns as we re-commit ourselves to obey the first commandment to love God with all our being. Part of that is loving Him “with all our heart” in adoration, praise and thanksgiving for all He has done for us in Christ, and that can touch the emotions to say the very least.

Many people are seeking to love God with all their mind in trying to become as theologically sound as they possibly can be. That is marvellous and wonderful. But not if it squeezes out time or the desire to stand in the awesome presence of God. There is a difference after all in growing in knowledge about Him, and in coming to know Him more deeply and personally. Both are desperately needed in today’s world.

Blog No.079. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 28th June 2012

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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