It’s a Heart Issue

I want to continue on the topic from yesterday’s post:  having a healthy fear and respect for God.  I don’t want anyone to think my point was about what clothing is proper to wear to church — legislating what people wear is not what I’m concerned about.  It’s a heart issue; it’s what’s behind the clothing, the language, the worship.  My point is, I think we’ve spent so much time focusing on God as our friend, buddy and pal, that we’ve lost all sense of the fear that caused the Israelites to hit the ground face first when God spoke from the mountain.  What I see in today’s believers, I wonder if we’d even listen immediately or tell God to hang on a second while we finished our cell phone call or conversation with our friend.  I think we’ve become far too casual with God, not in our clothing choices when attending services, but in our hearts. 

I had a (now deceased) friend who was a very devoted Catholic.  He came to visit me once years ago and attended my church.  When we entered the sanctuary, he looked around and said to me with wide eyes, “Are you sure this is a church?”  There were no hushed voices.  There was no awe, no reverence, no sense of entering a holy place.  In fact, personal conversations carried on at high volume several minutes after the start of church as people filtered in the first 20 minutes of service.  He watched with amazement as our worship band “rocked on” with upbeat, contemporary music, colored lights flashing, and drum and guitar solos.  I thought he was impressed with our “accessible to the youthful masses” worship and professional musicians.  The truth is, he was terrified.  He leaned over and yelled in my ear, “I know you tell me this is a church, but it looks and sounds like a rock concert.”  He was afraid of offending God, of making God common.

I think in making God “accessible”, in a lot of ways we have made Him common.  When we are called to be a separate and holy people, we aren’t supposed to look and feel and act and speak like those at a rock concert or a football game or a movie theater. 

“But my intentions are right; God knows my heart and He knows I’m sincere in my worship.”  Really?  Because in my Bible, there is a lot of detailed description regarding the proper and improper way to approach God.  For example, when Moses approached the burning bush and God told him to remove his shoes because he was on holy ground.  There were dire consequences for trying to approach God’s holiness with unholy, human bodies, regardless of the Hebrews good intentions.  Aaron’s sons just wanted to worship God and make sacrifices to Him.  Their intentions may have been pure, but they were killed just the same.  Incidentally, please note that Aaron wasn’t ticked at God; he was ticked at his sons for their disobedience and presumptive attitudes to worship in their own way.  You may want to stop the ark of the covenant from falling on the ground and breaking — very noble intentions — but when your unsanctified commonness comes in contact with God’s holiness, you’re going to die.  Just because God no longer strikes people dead for disobedience, it isn’t a sign of His approval. 

Believers seem to go from extreme to extreme.  We have replaced the unfeeling and unemotional ritualism of worship with an “anything goes, whatever it takes to get people’s attention” form of worship.  I’m not saying you can’t have fun worshiping God.  I’m not saying we don’t need to be creative in reaching out to young people, to the unchurched and to the disenchanted former believers.  Sanctification doesn’t happen in a day.  But it does bother me when we seem to lose sight of God’s holiness and command for respect.  It bothers me that we get them in the door, but don’t even start the process of working toward sanctification. 

We’ve been so busy making God a god of love that we forget God isn’t all about love.  He is love, 100% through and through.  But sometimes love comes in the form of discipline, punishment and correction.  Because we think about God as a god for forgiveness, we forget that He’s also a god of uncompromising standards.  Because we make him accessible, we forget that He’s royalty, Omnipotent, the King of the Universe, the Creator of Life and Death.  We have lost reverence which, I think, comes from a loss of perspective.  God is accessible to each one of us and cares for every little thing about us.  But God is not another friend on Facebook. 

I guess the best way I can explain it is this:  in all the television shows and movies you’ve seen about the White House, have you noticed that even the president’s closest advisors call him, “Mr. President”, even in private?  His chief of staff may have been in his fraternity in college, they may have partied together and thrown up together, but the minute the president took his oath, “Jim” became “Sir” or “Mister President”.  Well, we can’t forget that although God is your best friend, the lover of your soul, your father, your protector, your provider, your strength, He’s still “Mr. God”.  Does that make sense?  I don’t care if it’s worshiping in public or praying in private, we need to be real and honest with God in order to have a real relationship with Him.  But we can’t lose sight of the fact that He’s holy, separated, set apart, uncommon.   We need to regain a sense of awe and reverence for God, in the church and in our hearts.

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