Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where is the awe? Fear and trembling

"I can live in a way that pleases God." This statement ought to blow our minds. Christians readily accept this because we think of God as a warm and loving father who will always love his children unconditionally.  We confuse God's unconditional love with "being pleased". I love the child who disobeyed my order to "don't touch that", but I'm not thrilled that my $400 new toy is now in pieces on the floor. Experiencing the love and acceptance of God AND experiencing the pleasure of God are not the same things.

Most people cannot even conceive of God as a loving Father. If you ask them "Do you have assurance that God accepts you and will accept you into his kingdom?" they readily answer "No." They can't be sure of his unconditional love and acceptance, so they try to live in a way that pleases him, hoping to gain that assurance of love and acceptance. Christians, on the other hand, think that because they have assurance of God's love and acceptance - then it follows that their lives are pleasing to God. We're wrong.

Living a life that is pleasing to God takes effort. Paul, in his letter to the Christians at Philippi (2:12-13) says,
"My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him."

  1. These Christians were trained to obey. Paul discipled them. They learned a lifestyle of obedience under Paul's tutelage. When he was with them, he already observed that they knew how to live the Christian life, to walk as followers of Jesus. He exhorts them to keep on obeying even though he is no longer with them.
  2. Living a life pleasing to God takes work.  He tells them to "work out" your own salvation. It is not automatic, but rather takes effort. After 61 years I am still fighting to establish godly habits that will help me live a life pleasing to God, and to stay free from ungodly habits that will take me away from God. 
  3. Living the Christian life, a life that habitually pleases God is possible. Paul says "work out your own salvation with "fear and trembling". Why does he add "fear and trembling"? Is it because we are supposed to be afraid of making a mistake? People who are afraid of making mistakes NEVER DO ANYTHING. They are paralytics, afraid to move for fear of inciting anger. They are like the servant who buried the gold talent in the field because he was afraid of his master. His master called him "lazy and evil". The "fear and trembling" comes in because it is possible to live as God wants us to.  It is the fear and trembling of AWE. Have you ever held something of great value: a 5000 year old vase, keys to a new house, a newborn baby? You heart is afraid, your body is trembling in awe. Is this real? Is this little baby really mine. She is so delicate, so beautiful, so perfect ... wow... Today you and I can live lives that will please Almighty God. You and I have within us a power, a supernatural ability to live like Jesus lived, to live for Jesus. Be in awe.
  4. Living for Christ is possible because God is at work in us. God is at work in me. I have often disobeyed the Lord. I have ruined whole patches of my life, and YET God is at work in me, creating the desire and the actions that please Him. I can because HE DID. I can, because HE DIED. He is at work, so with fear and trembling, I need to WORK to develop holy habits that will help me live in a way that habitually brings a smile to the face of my Father. 
I'm amazed. I'm awed. Lord, it is possible to please you today. Thank you for making it possible. I'm in awe of you.