Jesus, He Traumatized People

Whatever Happened to the Fear of God?

by John MacArthur

How would you react if you were suddenly face-to-face with God?

While many Christians today think of the Lord in friendly, passive terms, the truth is that none of us would be leaping into the arms of our Father. The testimony of Scripture is clear: All sinners—even strong believers with mature faith—are right to cower in the light of God’s holiness.

For example, in Genesis 18 Abraham confessed in the presence of God that he was dust and ashes. Similarly, Job said after his pilgrimage, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6). Ezra 9 records the high priest’s profound sense of shame as he came before the Lord to worship. Habakkuk had a vision of God’s power and majesty, and his knees began to knock: “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me” (Habakkuk 3:16 ESV).

Isaiah’s Encounter with God

In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah describes how he saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. He heard the seraphim cry back and forth to one another in antiphonal response, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (v. 3). God’s holiness fills all—even when it is hidden from our view.

As Isaiah perceived the holiness of God, he cried out: “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Some might think that Isaiah did not have a very good self–image. He was not thinking positively; he was not affirming his strengths. Surely, Isaiah knew that he had the best mouth in the land! He was a prophet of God! He was the foremost spiritual leader in the nation. And yet he cursed himself. Why?

The answer is very clear. We find it in the words “My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Isaiah had seen a vision of God in His holiness, and he was absolutely shattered to the very core of his being by a sense of his own sinfulness. His heart longed for purging.

Perceiving God’s Holiness and Our Sin

When we see God as holy, our instant and only reaction is to see ourselves as unholy. Between God’s holiness and humanity’s unholiness is a gulf. And until a person understands the holiness of God, that person can never know the depth of his or her own sin. We ought to be shaken to our roots when we see ourselves against the backdrop of God’s holiness. If we are not deeply pained about our sin, we do not understand God’s holiness at all.

Without such a vision of God’s holiness, true worship is not possible. Real worship is not giddy. It does not rush into God’s presence unprepared and insensitive to His majesty. It is not shallow, superficial, or flippant. Worship is life lived in the presence of an infinitely righteous and omnipresent God by one utterly aware of His holiness and consequently overwhelmed with his own unholiness.

You and I may not have a vision of God like Isaiah’s, but nonetheless, the lesson is true that when we enter into the presence of God, we must see Him as holy. Our sense of sinfulness and fear is proportional to our experience of the presence of God.
If you have never worshiped God with a broken and a contrite spirit, you’ve never fully worshiped God, because that is the only appropriate response to entering the presence of holy God.

My heartfelt concern is that there is too much shallowness today with regard to God’s holiness. Our relationship to God has become too casual. In the modern mind, God has become almost human, so affable and ordinary that we don’t understand His holy indignation against sin. If we burst into His presence with lives unattended by repentance, confession, and cleansing by the Spirit and the Word of God, we are vulnerable to His holy indignation. It is only by His grace that we breathe each breath, is it not? He has every reason to take our lives, because the wages of our sin is death. We have lost our sense of that fear, and too many people approach God with a casual familiarity that borders on blasphemy.

Much that is done in the name of worship today clearly does not genuinely regard God as holy, and thus it falls woefully short. A lot of catchy songs are being sung, poignant feelings are being felt, congenial thoughts are being thought, and pleasurable emotions are being cultivated. But too often these things are merely self-indulgent exercises masquerading as worship without any serious acknowledgment of the holiness of God. That kind of worship bears no relationship to the worship we see in the Bible.
It may be more psychological than theological, more fleshly than spiritual.

The response of a true worshiper to a vision of God should resemble Isaiah’s. We should be overwhelmed with our own sinfulness and consequently consumed with a sense of holy terror. I am certain that if the people today who claim to have seen God really saw Him, they wouldn’t be lining up to get on the latest Christian talk show; they’d be lying prostrate on the ground, grieving over their sin.

Reverence and Godly Fear

A true worshiper comes into the presence of God with a healthy but soul-shattering fear. God does, after all, punish sin, even in those who are redeemed. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us, “Whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

Hebrews 12:28 goes on to say, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (KJV). The word translated “serve” is latreuo, a word for worship. The writer is talking about acceptable worship, and he lists two key elements: “reverence and godly fear.” Note the reason he gives for such worship: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

“Reverence” carries a positive connotation. It describes a sense of awe as we perceive the majesty of God. “Godly fear,” on the other hand, is a sense of profound awe and intimidation as we see the power and holiness of God, who “is a consuming fire.” That refers to His power to destroy, His holy reaction against sin.

True worship, then, demands a clear awareness of God’s holiness, a deep sense of my sinfulness, and a sincere cry for purging. That’s the essence of the proper attitude of worship. Let me illustrate that principle from the life of Christ.

The Response to Jesus

It seems to be difficult for Christians today to get away from the idea that Jesus was a passive, amiable, meek–and–mild being who walked through the world making people feel good. Actually, when our Lord was here on earth people were quite often afraid of Him. It was overwhelming for people to come face to face with the living God incarnate. In fact, it might be fair to say that whenever someone stood face to face with Jesus and came to a true understanding of who He really was, the normal reaction (from believers and skeptics alike) was fear. He traumatized people.

Even the disciples were fearful when they faced squarely the reality that He was God. In Mark 4:37–41, we read that while the disciples were crossing the lake in a boat with Jesus, a storm struck, and their boat began to sink. The disciples panicked and awoke Jesus, who was sleeping through it all. He calmed the storm, and rebuked them for their unbelief. Verse 41 tells us that after Jesus stilled the storm, they were exceedingly terrified. There’s at least one thing more frightening than a fierce storm outside your boat: having to face the holiness of God inside your boat.

In the next chapter of Mark, Jesus encountered a man possessed by a legion of demons. When Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs and they went into the lake and drowned, the people of the town came out and pleaded with Him to leave their country (Mark 5:17). Their reaction to Jesus was not because they were resentful about the loss of the pigs. If that had been the case, they would have demanded compensation. Rather, they were terrified in Jesus’ holy presence. They clearly sensed that the One to whom all judgment has been committed had come into their midst, and they were terrified of Him. They did not want to face their own sin in His holy presence.

In Luke 5, Peter was fishing and couldn’t catch anything. The Lord came along and told him where to let his nets down. Peter obeyed, and his catch was so great that he couldn’t haul it in. When he finally got help from another boat to bring in the catch, there were so many fish that both boats began to sink. It was a demonstration to Peter of Jesus’ deity. Peter “fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'” (Luke 5:8). All he could see was his own sinfulness when confronted with the power and presence of our holy God.

We need to cultivate that same attitude, remembering that we not only live our lives before the eyes of a holy God, but that His Holy Spirit dwells within us. Being ever mindful of God’s presence is vital if we’re going to live worshipful lives that glorify Him.

(Adapted from Worship: The Ultimate Priority.)

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Think about

How can a person understand the holiness of God?

What are the consequences of exalting God’s love over God’s holiness?

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Theology word of the week: Theodicy

Theodicy (from Gk. theos, ‘God’, and the root dik, ‘just’, seeks to ‘justify the ways of God to man’ (Milton), showing that God is in the right and is glorious and worthy of praise despite contrary appearances. Theodicy asks how we can believe that God is both good and sovereign in face of the world’s evil—bad people; bad deeds, defying God and injuring people; harmful (bad) circumstances, events, experiences and states of mind, which waste, thwart, or destroy value, actual or potential, in and for humankind; in short, all facts, physical and moral, that prompt the feeling, ‘This ought not to be’.

All theodicies view evil as making for a good greater than is attainable without it. Thus, Leibniz (who coined the word ‘theodicy’ in 1710) argued that a world containing moral and physical evil is better, because metaphysically richer, than one containing good only, and that God must have created the best of all possible worlds. Hegel, a closet pantheist, held that all apparent evil is really good in the making; it looks and feels bad only because its character as good is as yet incomplete. Process theologians picture their finite God struggling against evil in hope of mastering it some day. Biblical theists, however, reason differently. Affirming with Augustine that evil is a lack of good, or a good thing gone wrong, they begin by agreeing that:

1. Pain, though it hurts, is often not really evil. The stab of pain acts as an alarm, and living with pain can purge, refine, and ennoble character. Pain may thus be a gift and a mercy.

2. Virtue (choosing good) is only possible where vice (choosing evil) is also possible. An automaton’s programmed performance is not virtue, and lacks the value of virtue. In making man capable of choosing the path of grateful obedience, God made him capable of not doing so. Though not sin’s author, God created a possibility of sin by creating the possibility of righteousness.

3. Moral growth and maturity are only possible when the consequences of action are calculable. Since God means this world to be a school for moral growth, he gave it physical regularity so that conseouences might be foreseen. Frustrations through miscalculation, and natural events called disasters because they damage humans, are therefore inevitable. Unfallen man would have experienced them. In fact, we mature morally through coping with them.

Beyond this point in theodicy, speculations intrude. John Hick posits universal salvation, arguing that nothing less can justify all the evil that God for soul-building purposes permits in his world. Advocates of the ‘free-will defence’ (of God, against the charge of being the source of evil) speculate that God cannot prevent humans from sinning without destroying their humanity—which would mean that glorified saints, being still human, may sin. Some Calvinists envisage God permissively decreeing sin for the purpose of self-display in justly saving some from their sin and justly damning others for and in their sin. But none of this is biblically certain. The safest way in theodicy is to leave God’s permission of sin and moral evil as a mystery, and to reason from the good achieved in redemption, perhaps as follows:

a. In this fallen world where all have turned from God and deserve hell, God has taken responsibility for saving individuals and renewing the cosmos, at the cost to himself of the death of Jesus Christ his Son (see Atonement; Redemption; Substitution). The cross shows how much he loves sinners (Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 1 Jn. 4:8–10), and induces responsive love in all whom he calls to faith.

b. God enables believers, as forgiven sinners, to relate to all evil (bad circumstances, bad health, bad treatment, even their own bad past) in a way that brings forth good—moral and spiritual growth and wisdom, benefit to others by example and encouragement, and thanksgiving to God; so that facing evil becomes for them a value-creating way of life.

c. In heaven, where the full fruit of Christ’s redemption will be enjoyed, earth’s evils will in retrospect seem trivial (Rom. 8:18), and remembering them will only increase our joy (Rev. 7:9–17). Thus through God’s sovereign goodness evil is overcome; not theoretically, so much as practically, in human lives.

This unspeculative, confessional, pastoral theodicy leaves with God the secret things (cf. Dt. 29:29), justifies and glorifies God for what is revealed, calls forth wonder and worship, and resolves the feeling, ‘This ought not to be,’ into the contented cry, ‘He does all things well!’—which is a supremely positive declaration that God is in the right, and is to be praised. Meantime, logic declares it possible, and faith, reasoning as above, thinks it certain, that the final state of things will demonstrably be better than anything God could have achieved by taking a different course at any stage. [1]

Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 37.


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Edward Snowden and The Abolition of Man: America’s Rejection of Morality | Inside Classical Education

    • The power of these technologies are increasing rapidly, and while they may bless the man on the street, they also bolster the man at the bureau.
    • Lewis notes that when a culture has jettisoned objective value (what he also calls the Tao)—real, knowable truth and goodness—then gradually the way it wields power shifts from serving people to conditioning them to act the way the power-holders think best.  And what a power-holder thinks best is not determined by an objective standard of what is right and good, precisely because such standards have been rejected.
    • Could it be that immense power in the hands of few, in a culture without objective value will lead to man-moulding policies that seek to shape citizens into conformity with the prevailing ideals of those exercising this power?
    • In Orwell’s 1984, the protagonist Winston Smith (after a great deal of conditioning) learns to love Big Brother, with tears in his eyes.  But Lewis suggests that Big Brother never loves the little brother, the man on the street.   Neither does Orwell.
    • do we regard even Edward Snowden as good?  If so, by what standard?
    • I think that roughly half of all American have rejected objective value, and we are the midst of living out the consequences of this
    • Could it be that half of the people working in the FBI, CIA and NSA are themselves without a polished moral compass?
    • We may call for investigations and committee hearings and protest loudly, but until we return to the Tao, we will have no basis to criticize or demand reform.  Instead we will pit the impulses of the man on the street against the impulses of the man with the power, with no doubt as to who will win.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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That Irresistible Force

A pilferer, grown to be a thief, soon became a monster, balancing an innocent life against thirty denarii. ~ De Witt S. Clark, The Possibilities Of A Human Life Illustrated By The Downfall Of The Traitor [Judas].

(from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

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Finding Satan

If you really want to know something about Satan, go away to that wilderness where our Lord spent forty days and forty nights.

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

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How My Actions Affect Christ’s Honor

First, consider the instance of His disciples in their failure to remove an evil spirit from a child in Mark 9:14-29.

Mark 9:14-29 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

Then compare two similar statements found on two separate occasions.

Mark 9:22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”


Matt 8:2 And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

What stands out as the difference?

But, if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. The leper was confident of Christ’s power, but put an if upon his will; If thou wilt, thou canst. This poor man [with child] referred himself to his good-will, but put an if upon his power, because his disciples, who cast out devils in his name, had been non-plussed in this case. Thus Christ suffers in his honour by the difficulties and follies of his disciples. (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

Although God has not given me the authority and power to cast out demons, what He has given me is to be exercised in pure faith without doubt. Failing to do that hinders the work He has given me and obstructs what people could see of Him through me.

How does one amass the faith required for such feat? Well, it is not the amount that is needed, but the purity that should be sought.

Mark 9:28-29 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

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Don’t Let Defeat Have the Last Word

We are all working on what the Hill Foundation points out below in varying degrees, because we all suffer failure of one kind or another in our lives. I have been encouraged to not let defeat defeat me by what I have been reading recently. In Mark 9-12 I see the miserable failure of a couple of hard headed disciples. Jesus went to great lengths to make clear to them the importance of servanthood in the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 9:33-37 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

A pretty clear and simple illustration wouldn’t you say? When it comes to receiving believers, don’t take the role of a parent, but be humble and childlike; be a sister; be a brother.

To keep the principle in the forefront of the mind, Jesus reminded His followers with the severest of warnings.

Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Regardless, nevertheless, as if Jesus had been talking to a wall, not many days later to our astonishment we read this.

Mark 10:13 And they [those in the crowd] were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

If this is not failure, I don’t know what it is. Jesus, now upset and not willing to let them slide on this crucial principle, repeated Himself.

Mark 10:14-16 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

So by now you might think they got it, right? Jesus settled it, right? Well, you know how stubborn and slow of hearing we can be.

Mark 10:35-45 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Oh, what an example Jesus went on to be. What ever became of James and John? At this point, not half, but all 10 of the apostles were highly irritated at what these two sons of thunder had become. Did they ever learn? Did they die defeated? Far from it. James, according to Acts 12:2 was the Church’s first martyr. He died serving His Lord, not his own interests. Likewise, John would rather be banished to the island of Patmos than deny His Lord. He would write a significant portion of the New Testament and come to be known as the apostle of love. Message received; they finally got it.

Therefore I say all this to say this, (and as Hill says below), we can’t let our mental attitude toward our own failures overcome us. Persevere. The Lord is not done with us yet.

From: NHF World Learning Center

Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 3:10 AM
To: Robert Coss
Subject: Napoleon Hill’s Thought for the Day

It isn’t defeat, but rather your mental attitude toward it, that whips you.

There are many things in life that you cannot control, but you can always control your attitude toward them. Defeat is never permanent unless you allow it to be so. When you have a positive attitude, you will recognize failure for the impostor that it is and realize that it is really a learning experience, a valuable lesson that will help you succeed with the next attempt. Ask yourself: What could I have done differently that would have altered the outcome? What can I do in the future to minimize problems and mistakes? What did I learn from this experience that I can put to good use next time? If you approach obstacles and setbacks with a positive attitude, you will be surprised how quickly you can turn defeat into victory.

Permanent link to this post: It isn’t defeat, but rather your mental attitude toward it, that whips you.

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