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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where Is the Fear and Trembling?*

"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? declares the LORD; Do you not tremble before me?" (Jeremiah 5:21-22) As churches and Christians continue to gravitate towards cokes and jokes, with entertainment-driven worship and preachers and stand-up comics (second-rate that is), I have began to wonder, "Where is the fear and trembling?" Our worship speaks so much about us, about what we will do, about how great we are, as though others should tremble before us. Yet we have offered the sacrifice of fools with our babbling (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3). Look at preachers today and listen to how many begin their sermons. Invariably there is some random joke thrown in for the purpose of making the congregation laugh. For what reason? That they may like him? Think he is funny? Scratch where they itch? This levity is rampant in today's pulpits, and preachers disgrace the sacred desk with such foolishness. Furthermore, preachers today on T.V. and at your local street corner now seem to have some entertainment value for people. People like to watch them "get excited" (which is usually followed up by a hearty "Amen!") and rant and rave as though this must qualify for "powerful preaching." A misnomer today is loudness for powerfulness. Paul made it clear his approach to the Word of God and the preaching of the gospel. Hear his cry when he said, "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message was not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). This is a far cry from the preaching today. People are not coming to hear a word from the Lord anymore (at least not primarily); they come to watch and be entertained, to laugh and "have fun." The sermon won't convict of sin or draw them to Christ, for it can't, because the message has already been neutered by the messenger and the audience is disengaged to anything containing "serious" thought. Church services today are now called "pep rallies" and "fellowship of excitement" and make it their marketing tool as I have seen some billboards saying, "Our church is fun." What? Pep rally? Fun? Is this what worship and service to the King is about? Is this what the world needs to see of Christ? We have simply sold out to the entertainment culture where worship is a sacred version of "American Idol" with local flavor and preachers or evangelists attempt to tickle me like I am Elmo. How about, "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Psalm 2:11), or "The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!" (psalm 99:1). Or what about the Christian? How is he to conduct himself? Again, we are not left without instruction. Paul beseeches the Philippians, saying, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Every aspect of the Christian life is to be done in the mode of fear and trembling, and this, in view of the majesty and greatness of God. The earth trembles, the mountain quakes at the presence of God, yet I see Christianity with a yawn or a thumbs up or a high five. You know, when Jesus walked this earth, the demons knew who Jesus was, and their response to Him was fear and trembling. The Scriptures say that they believe and shudder! (James 2:19). How much more should Christians who are in covenant, who are called to represent Him on this earth and see that 'His Kingdom come, His will be done' fear and tremble before such awesome responsibility to such a King as He? Maybe that is why Peter said, "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile . . ." (1 Peter 1:17). Or what about God's Word? It seems to me that we approach God's Word too flippantly and carelessly. We forget that this Living Book is a Sword, that these words are spoken from the mouth of Him who spoke this world into creation. And these words often are replaced with the words of man, with devotionals and self-help and "leadership principles" and so on. Yet God has a word for us as well. Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hands have made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:1-2). The psalmist adds, "My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments" (Psalm 119:120). Many of you will know this context as the psalmist's delight in the "law of the LORD" in Psalm 119. Again and again, Scripture and those who have gone before have showed us the way of fear and trembling. I tremble over the fact that so much of my life is devoid of this fear and trembling! So I ask myself such a daunting question, and I pose it to you. Are we going to continue to wear t-shirts that say, "Jesus is my homeboy" and peddle the Word of God with sham copy-catting of the world whether it be music, speaking, or living? Maybe whom we fear and tremble is our fellow man or the world's perception of us. To this again, God has spoken: And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28). After a life of futiliy and utter vanity, the writer of Ecclesiastes sums up the end of life as fearing God and keeping his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). That's it. Period. If we stand up to speak for God and come with a cavalier attitude to the gospel calling to entertain or scratch itches and tickle ears, or treat worship as self-adulation or second-rate talent show, or read the words of man rather than the words of God, then we are not working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are working, yes, but it is not God's salvation. "For thus the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 'Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.'" Isaiah 8:11-13

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