Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: security

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.” Is there a way out, an answer to this riddle? As I 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. This kind of soft, loving God often seems 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 forgave us completely when we repented. 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)

Unstable as water

My wife and I once took a whale watch cruise from a little town in Massachusetts. To find the whales we had to go out on the Atlantic until even the skyline of Boston disappeared from view. There was no wind that day, the ocean was as smooth and flat as a prairie field, only the boat and the antics of the whales disturbed the surface of the water. The many stories of shipwrecks remind us that the Atlantic is not always like that. “Unstable as water,” was Jacob’s evaluation of his firstborn son (Genesis 49:4). That image of the changeable nature of water is picked up in other places in the Bible.

James applies it to Christians who are uncertain about whether they can expect much from God. They are “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Then he adds: “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8).

It only takes a little breeze to create waves on a body of water; if the wind shifts direction, the waves shift with it. A boat on the water tends to go with the direction of the wind and waves and it takes considerable effort to go against that direction. The apostle Paul admonishes us to “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

In Revelation 17:15, John is told by the angel that “The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Those of us who are a little older have seen chaotic, tumultuous changes in public opinion. There are winds of doctrine blowing which we were hardly aware of at first, but now have taken on such force that we begin to doubt whether Christians will be able to survive the storm.

Matthew tells of a time that Jesus and His disciples crossed the sea of Galilee at night. All was calm when they started out, but during the night a great storm blew up, the waves beat upon the ship and it began to fill with water. Some of the disciples were fishermen who were intimately familiar with the sea. Even they were terrified. Jesus arose, spoke to the wind and waves, saying “Peace, be still.” “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 4:39).

Are we in the boat with Jesus today? If so, there is no need to fear the storm. When Jesus speaks peace to our hearts the raging tempest around us is no longer a threat.

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