The great and terrible God

In order to reduce Christianity to moralistic, therapeutic deism, we must reduce God to a warm fuzzy, namby-pamby therapist whose only desire is to help us find relief from the emotional and existential complexes that befuddle our lives.

That is not the way that the Bible describes Him. Nehemiah twice speaks of God as being great and terrible (Nehemiah 1:5 & 4:14) and David once (Psalm 99:3). When Isaiah saw God, he said “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). When John saw Christ glorified, he “fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17).

This appears to introduce a conundrum. As we read through the Bible, we are repeatedly admonished to fear God. Yet there are equally frequent admonitions to “fear not.” How can we explain this riddle? As we consider the lives of men like Moses, David, Isaiah, Nehemiah and John, a striking fact emerges: those who had the greatest fear of God did not have much fear of anything or anyone else.

The Scriptures invite us to a personal relationship with this great and terrible God. Those who accept this invitation find that their fears melt away in proportion to the closeness of their relationship to God. They truly find Him to be a God of love, a Father of the fatherless and a Comforter of the brokenhearted. Yet He is still the omnipotent one, having all power over all things, seen and unseen. We must submit to Him and serve Him, for He will not be our servant.

Many want to believe in another kind of God, one who will produce miracles and healings on demand, yet never find fault with willful disobedience. Unfortunately, this soft, loving God appears unable to generate either true love or true peace in those who profess to know Him.

Real love comes from being in a relationship with the real God who knows all about us, not just our words and actions but our deepest and most hidden thoughts and feelings, and yet forgives us completely when we repent. Genuine peace and security comes from trusting our lives completely unto this God who is completely beyond our control.

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)

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