Did your parents ever tell you that you’d gotten too big for your own britches? Usually your parents were giving you fair warning that you had stepped over the disrespect line and you needed to step back quickly or experience a refresher course in who was the parent and who was the child, right?
Well, I’m thinking that, with respect to honoring the holiness and sanctity of God, we crossed that line so long ago that we don’t even remember it. I know, I know . . . not you, but some of us have. So stick with me for a few minutes. 1
Can you remember a time when the word holy actually meant something; when it wasn’t just the first word in a two-word phrase that ended in something like ‘cow’ or ‘moly’? Do you remember when we had clothes and shoes that were only for church? Do you remember when we were taught to treat the Bible itself with respect and reverence?
I think over the years that many of us (I know, not you) have come to a place where church is just another place to be, the Bible is just another book, and God is just another Person in our lives.
“In his book Soul Searching, Christian Smith summarized perceptions about God that are prevalent in the church and in contemporary culture. He said that most young evangelicals believed in what could best be described as ‘moral, therapeutic deism’ (we could also call this viewpoint ‘the Santa Claus god’).
“Moral implies that God wants us to be nice. He rewards the good and withholds from the naughty.
“Therapeutic means that God just wants us to be happy.
“Deism means that God is distant and not involved in our daily lives. God may get involved occasionally, but on the whole, God functions like an idea not a personal being actively present in our world.
“According to Smith, this is the version of God that’s prevalent in our culture and in our churches. Often without realizing it, every culture quietly molds and shapes our views of God. But we can’t grow in our relationship with God when we insist on relating to God as we think he should be. …
“That’s why our surrender to God-as-he-is, as revealed in the Bible, is so important. Otherwise, we will have a god of our own imaginations—and, embarrassingly, our American god is an obese, jolly toymaker who works one day a year.”2
It’s one thing to want to become closer to God – that’s something we all want, but becoming closer is not becoming equal to. In fact, if we look in the Bible at people’s interactions with God, we see that the closer their relationship with God, the more humble and unworthy they felt. Isaiah for example:
“… I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: … And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’ … “So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts. …’” Isaiah 6:1-5 NKJV
“I knew a girl who used to think the stars were tiny specks of light just over her head. I’m not kidding. And she wasn’t in grade school when she believed this. She was in college. … She was intelligent in many ways. But one day in a conversation she mentioned that she had just learned that stars in the night sky were actually really far away. I asked her what she meant. She said, ‘You know, they’re not just right up there. They’re not just tiny dots. They’re really far away.’
“I was incredulous.
“‘What did you think they were before?’ I asked.
“‘I thought they were, you know, just right up above us.’
“If you were to ask me why it matters that we study the doctrine of God, I’d say for the same reason that it’s worth knowing that stars are not tiny pinpricks of light just above our heads. When we know the truth about God, it fills us with wonder. If we fail to understand his true character, we’ll never be amazed by him. We’ll never feel small as we stare up at him. We’ll never worship him as we ought. We’ll never run to him for refuge or realize the great love he’s shown in the measureless distance he bridged to rescue us.”3
Do we feel that awe for God any more? I remember hearing a story about Teddy Roosevelt. Supposedly, when he had a meeting with difficult people over difficult things, he would schedule the meeting in the evening. Before they’d start the meeting, he’d walk outside and just look up at the stars for what I’m sure his guests thought was a very long time. But, after a while he would look around and say something like, “Well, I think we all feel small enough now.” And then walk back in and have his meeting.
Do we feel humbled and small when we look at God’s creation? We live in cities that are so full of light that we can hardly see the stars, at all. We know enough science that we can explain the mechanics of most of the natural things we see. Historians and scientists have done their best to explain away any miraculous happening, past or present. Men have walked on the moon; we’ve seen pictures of Mars. Is there any part of creation that takes your breath away?
I have to tell you that when my sons were small we would go to Sea World from time to time. It was interesting and the boys enjoyed seeing all the animals. I usually spent most of the day appalled at the price of everything in the park. That is, until we sat down in the killer whale theater; something very strange would happen to me there. I would become completely overwhelmed with awe while watching the whales do their stuff. The people around me would be talking, screaming, laughing, trying to either get splashed or stay dry, but I would be crying and praising God for making such amazing creatures. It sounds silly now, to be so moved by watching some animals, but I think those were some of the times that I felt the holiness of God.
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the dock.”4
Let’s not get “too big for our britches.” Let’s remember Who’s in charge and worship Him in reverence and awe.