“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
One of the saddest things about today’s American church is our disinclination to tremble at the Word of God. I would contend that, in the minds and hearts of many, there is a lack of reverence for what God has said. There might be warm fuzzies and happy thoughts about “the man upstairs.” But a holy fear of the living and true God? That sounds a bit archaic. And thus we can be much too frivolous when the Scriptures are open.
In our modern times, professing Christians often shuffle into an assembly on the Lord’s Day, sit down, and rate the church service, subjectively evaluating it on the basis of how they feel it suits their lives; all the while, failing to grasp that something far more significant is happening. As we are evaluating preaching and music and children’s ministry, Jesus is evaluating us. He is weighing our thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and actions according to His Word. That should humble us enough to repent and seek Him.
In contrast with this lack of reverence, a church that takes God at His Word, longing to encounter His greatness in the pages of Scripture, stands on the threshold of a fresh visitation of the Spirit. One illustration of this can be found by going back to the year 1840, when the church of Scotland experienced a tremendous re-awakening to the power and authority of the Word. One leader from that time recounted:
“It was a common thing, as soon as the Bible was opened, after the preliminary services, and just as the reader began, for great meltings to come upon the hearers. The deepest attention was paid to every word as the sacred verses were slowly and solemnly enunciated. Then the silent tear might be seen stealing down the rugged but expressive faces turned upon the reader. . . . It was often a stirring sight to witness the multitudes assembling during the dark winter evenings — to trace their progress as they came in all directions across moors and mountains by the blazing torches which they carried to light their way to the places of meeting. The Word of the Lord was precious in those days; and personal inconvenience was little thought of when the hungering soul sought to be satisfied.” (Charles J. Brown, in The Revival of Religion: Addresses by Scottish Evangelical Leaders Delivered in Glasgow in 1840 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1984 reprint], pp.316-317)
Great meltings. Can you picture that? Can you fathom a congregation comprised of people who had traveled all night, through the mountains, in the dead of winter to hear and respond to God’s revelation in the Scriptures; their eyes filled with tears and their hearts with longing, giving no thought to personal comfort or convenience? Why would anyone go to these lengths to hear the Bible? Because it was exceedingly precious to them. The Word of the Lord was their very life (Deut. 32:47). And it was there, among such people, that God poured out His Spirit.
Do we long for God to pour out His Spirit like that again today? Can we honestly say that we gladly welcome God to interrupt the programs of our normal lives by pressing us more deeply into His Word? Or are we merely satisfied with the status quo?
I can say confidently that God wants to impart greater grace to us through the Scriptures. But we need to learn how to hunger for it. That’s what Jesus is inviting us to do when we gather. He wants us to exit the status quo and experience more of His fullness. Each Sunday, He meets with us to nourish our hearts through His Word. The only question is, will we get over ourselves enough to let Him?
An Extension of God’s Character
We Christians don’t worship the Bible. Let’s get that straight. However, at the same time, we can’t worship God faithfully without the Bible. It plays a crucial role in our experience of worship. Without Scripture, worship would be nothing more than a religious guessing game. Thankfully, we know God because He has made Himself known in the pages of Scripture.
And knowing Him is a fearful thing (cf. Heb. 10:31). The living God will not be trivialized or domesticated. His character is jealous and holy, which means He is unwilling to be mocked, ignored, or belittled by His creatures. And His Word is an extension of His character. So when we search the pages of the Bible, we are listening to God as He discloses everything we need to know about Him. Simply put, we are encountering the fearsome Lord of heaven and earth. This gets at the heart of what Isaiah is saying in 66:2.
We need the fear of the Lord. Without it, our humility withers and dies; the absence of true contrition will suffocate our hearts, bloating our self-estimation to exclude God from our lives. Therefore, we must grasp the immanence of God through the Scriptures. When we sense His power and presence, only then will we tremble with fear. Only then will we be the church to whom God will look. Are we willing to humble ourselves and listen earnestly enough to attract His gaze?
Let’s begin this Sunday. As we gather in the name of Christ, let’s do the hard work of humbling ourselves before His throne so that the Word will resonate deeply within our hearts. God doesn’t want our pomp and circumstance. He doesn’t want us to make a spectacle. No, the sacrifices that please God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Ps. 51:17). That’s what He desires for LifePoint Church. So let’s hear His Word, humble ourselves to fear Him, and enjoy the endless immensity of His favor as it flows out to us through His Word.
Liturgy for Sunday, March 08, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 57:9-11
Confession & Assurance: Romans 5:8-11
Benediction: Colossians 1:11-12
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