It Is Frightening

Vern S. Poythress

To many, it seems that God cannot be found. But what if God actually came and met you? What if he spoke to you? According to the Bible, just such a thing happened to Job (Job 38–41), and it was overwhelming. We should not be surprised that it was. It would be overwhelming for us, if we were to meet the God of infinity, who made the galaxies and the stars, and who also made you and me. Meeting God turns out to be an earthshaking experience that may change you forever…

If we think we want to have an experience like Job’s, we might first think about whether we really want the “full package,” so to speak. For example, do we want to go through the suffering that Job experienced that led up to the climactic encounter with God? And even if we could avoid the suffering of Job, do we really want to be overwhelmed by encountering the infinite God as Job did? In reality, it is frightening.


A Second Time in Glory

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is he to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal award; and I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord; and when he shall return to his majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blesses in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: encouraged by which blessed hope it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardship here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with him I shall also live with him, if I endure, I shall also reign with him. And to Him, my Redeemer, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons, one God, be glory forever, world without end, Amen, and Amen.

Wonder and Awe

Hebrews 9:1-5 (ESV)

[1] Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. [2] For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. [3] Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, [4] having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. [5] Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

In modern times, art is often seen as a form of self-expression.  The most important thing is to be “authentic” and to express oneself earnestly.  Worship is often seen the same way.  As long as we sing or serve with good intentions and genuine emotion, God should accept it happily.  How we feel and what we desire to do for God becomes the primary focus.  

The biblical witness regarding worship is shockingly different.  God gives Moses incredibly detailed instructions for where and how the people are to worship.  When Nadab and Abihu offer God “unauthorized fire” to the Lord in Leviticus 10, He consumes them!  When a well-meaning Uzzah reaches out to steady the ark of God in the midst of worship, God strikes him down for his error (2 Samuel 6)!

In these moments, God appears to be a petty, controlling deity.  Doesn’t He know that it’s the thought that counts?

According to our passage, for as long as there have been a people of God, there have been regulations for worship.  God cannot be worshiped just any old way and this does not restrict us, it frees us.  Worship has always been greater than anything the whims of man could conceive of. 

When God designs the worship, we are reminded that God is light itself and His very body is given for us.  When God designs the worship, we are amazed that the Holy One of Israel would allow us to worship Him at all.  When God designs the worship, we are more aware of God’s presence, provision, authority, and justice than our own.  When God designs the worship, we are awed by the One who sits on a throne of mercy and is worshiped day and night by the saints and angels.

Why would we waste our time focusing on what is inside of us, when we can wonder at the One who is set apart from us (holy) and who is beyond us (infinite, glorious)?

For the Sake of His Name

Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ: The Urbana ’79 Compendium
Edited by John W. Alexander

Chapter 3: God’s Gospel
John R.W. Stott

Romans 1:1-5

[1] Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, [2] which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, [3] concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh [4] and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, [5] through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…

If it is God the Father’s purpose that every knee and every tongue should acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus, it should be our purpose too.  We should be “jealous” for the honor of Christ’s name, troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed and all the time anxious that it should be given the honor and the glory which are due to it…

This is the highest missionary motivation.  It is neither obedience to the Great Commission, nor love for perishing sinners (right and strong as these incentives are), but rather zeal for the glory of Christ.  Some missionary endeavor has been a thinly disguised form of imperialism; that is, a hunger for the prestige of our country or our church or our organization or ourselves.  Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for Christ’s empire or kingdom.  “For the sake of the name” is the missionary goal which causes all unworthy motives to wither and die.


[20] Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. [21] On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. [22] And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” [23] Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

[24] But the word of God increased and multiplied.

– Acts 12:20-24

In our passage this morning, Herod, a persecutor of the church, is judged by God.  The people flatter him in a blasphemous way, he receives the glory due to God, and he is subsequently struck down.

Herod’s desire for and enjoyment of glory is not unique.  The desire for glory has been the source of conflict with God from the very beginning.  Satan was not satisfied by simply reflecting the glory of God; he wanted to take God’s place.  Adam and Eve were tempted by the prospect of becoming like God.

Glory is something like fame.  Of course, we understand that God deserves His glory (or fame), but we would not mind if we got some for ourselves too.  Perhaps we don’t want to be famous in a TMZ celebrity kind of way, but we would like others to speak well of us and for the right people to know how wonderful or talented we are.

Even in ministry, we are not free from this temptation.  I am a pastor, and I am committed to spreading the fame of God to the whole world, yet I also want people to recognize my gifts and my competence.

Thankfully, there will be a day when you and I will be free from this desire for self-glory, and we will be blessed to wholeheartedly give God everything He deserves.  All of human history is marching forward to the day when Jesus will get all the glory.

May our Risen King receive the reward of His death and resurrection!

[8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:8-11

This is Not Heaven Yet

[52] And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” [53] And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. [54] But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” [55] And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 

– Luke 8:52-55

In Luke 8, Jesus raises a little girl from the dead. This is glorious, but we must understand that she did not necessarily live happily ever after. Likely she believed in Jesus which would have led to persecution. Eventually, she would have died again. Everything is not yet different. This is not heaven yet.

This truth should leave us dissatisfied. In fact, we generally should be more dissatisfied than we are because no matter how good this life is, this is not heaven. We do not see our Savior face to face.

Sometimes we want just enough change in our lives so we can really enjoy this world, have a good time with our friends and family, and get the most out of our work or our vacations. We can grow numb to the eternal glory in the presence of God that we were made for.

Son of David, King of Glory

[1] The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…

[6] and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah

– Matthew 1:1, 6

King David was the greatest King in Israel’s history. He was a warrior who destroyed their enemies and brought peace and prosperity to the nation. Matthew shows David honor in calling Jesus the son of David. Yet at the same time, Matthew draws attention to David’s failures.

In verse 6, Matthew points out that Solomon is the son of David and the wife of Uriah. This is an odd introduction, something along the lines of “this is Tom who beats his wife” or “this is Rachel who cheats on her taxes.” Matthew could have named Solomon’s mother as Bathsheba but he makes certain that we understand that David unlawfully took another man’s wife. Even the greatest king of Israel was a sinner and a failure.

In verses 7-11, Matthew lists the kings of Israel after David, from Solomon to Jechoniah and the kings get worse and worse. There are a couple good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah but many more terrible kings. Ahaz burned his son as an offering to false gods. Manasseh filled the temple with altars to Baal and other demons. Things have gotten so bad by the time of Jechoniah that God sends the nation into exile. As a whole, the kings are one sorry disappointment after another.

We too spend most of our lives serving disappointing kings. Perhaps our “king” is pleasure, money, or prestige. These kings promise us the world but turn out to be ugly disappointments. These kings cannot save us or give us life.

In contrast to the ugliness of earthly kings, Matthew presents to us King Jesus. He is the eternal Son of God who washes the dirty feet of wicked people. He is the voice who spoke the world into being yet He knows our names. Jesus is the God who comes to save us, whose justice, holiness, mercy and steadfast love is more radiant than a million suns. He is the king we have been waiting for.

“I am he.”

[1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. [2] Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. [3] So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. [4] Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” [5] They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. [6] When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

– John 18:1-6

In verse one, Jesus and his disciples enter the garden of Gethsemane.  Judas, one of Jesus’s disciples, intends to betray Jesus.  Judas understands that Jesus has power.  He has seen Jesus walk on water, calm a storm, and raise the dead.  So Judas, comes “prepared.”  Judas has Roman soldiers, superior numbers, and the element of surprise (v. 3).  And Judas is completely ridiculous.  He is going to try to strong arm the Creator of the Universe.  He actually thinks that Jesus can be forced to do something against His will.

A couple of years ago, a college student in New Jersey sued her parents for college tuition.  They were willing to pay in-state tuition, but not out-of-state, so she sued them.  If my children ever sue me, it will be a tragedy…for them, because I have no money.  Of course, the greater tragedy will be that our relationship has degenerated into a business transaction.

Now we will not try to sue God, but we can be tempted to imagine it is His duty to extend grace to us.  We can attempt to twist His arm, reminding Him that it’s His job to love us.  The sad thing is we would settle for a business relationship with God, where we are obligated to be fairly good people and He owes us a happy life.  Fortunately for us, this is not the offer on the table.

What does a righteous judge owe a convicted criminal?  What does a holy king owe to a rebel who has tried to overthrow him?  Nothing.  We have no leverage, no entitlement with God.  Yet Jesus chooses to give His life for us.

jesusarrested-tissotJudas has lanterns and torches, but Jesus is not hiding.  He has soldiers and weapons, but Jesus is not resisting (v. 3).  Jesus is not surprised.  He knows what is going to happen and He confronts those who would torture and kill Him.  Jesus asks who they are seeking and when they say “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says “I am he” and everyone falls on the ground before His majesty.

Jesus cannot be forced into anything.  While we may be content with a God obligated to be good to us, who grudgingly blesses us, we find a free and sovereign God who chooses against all reason to love sinners who deserve nothing.

God does not love you reluctantly.  It is not an obligation He has to keep.  Jesus sees your sin, your doubt, your fickle love for Him, and He goes willingly to the cross that you might belong to Him.  Jesus, the Son of God chooses death.