Tuesday 21 July 2015

Maintaining and Developing a Sense of "Awe" at the Glorious Gospel

I considered calling this blog post "the Amazing Grace of the Glorious Gospel", but I went with the above title, though both would communicate something of what I hope to explain. In all of our pursuit for the soundness of doctrine, and we must pursue this, we must ensure also that we do not lose sight of a sense of "awe" at our God, the gospel and his work of grace in our lives.

Romans 3:24 "And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus".

Hebrews 12:28 "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire".

Firstly, we must not lose sight of our sense of awe and gratitude for God in saving us, justifying us (declaring us no longer guilty in God's sight based on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ) and in redeeming us. There is a great danger for all of us, that we can fall into a measure of self-righteousness and pride the longer we go on in the Christian life. As we grow in sanctification, may we not forget what we once were. We so easily forget what we once were as Christians, many of us often forget that we were once muddled in our thinking and our way of life, but the Lord perseveres with us and he changes our lives.

Paul had to remind the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God".

Therefore, may we be reminded what we once were: "And such were some of you"; to guard against pride and to be renewed in our amazement and "awe" of God's purposes for us through the gospel.

Secondly, Hebrews teaches us that there is an "acceptable worship", which means that it is possible to approach the Lord in the church with unacceptable forms/elements of worship. This would deserve a whole article in itself, however Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession of Faith explains the right elements of worship. Hebrews 12:28 asserts that true and biblical worship should be marked with "reverence and awe". While it is common to talk about a lack of reverence in public worship in some Christian circles, it is almost never heard that there was a lack of "awe".

Our churches may be Reformed in their approach to God using the biblical elements of worship, there may be a sense of reverence and yet there could well be lacking a sense of "awe". It would seem probable, in the light of Hebrews 12:28, that "reverence and awe" need to be considered together. They are naturally different Greek words and "reverence" emphasises something of the fear of God while "awe" emphasises fear, but also wonder in the knowledge of the Lord's attributes. We may stand at the bottom of the Alps and say that the "mountains were awesome". Have we lost a sense of awe in our public worship in the West? Surely a fresh emphasis on the Three Persons of the Trinity will help us in our worship, but this is not all that is needed.

In all of our pursuit for spiritual growth, for doctrinal knowledge, in reading theological books, in our personal devotions, may we pray for both reverence and awe of our God, in equal measure. May we wait and see how our Lord will answer such a prayer. Surely a sense of "awe" is much needed for the church in the West in our time.

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