4th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, have you heard of visual lethargy before? Even though you might not have heard that term, you probably understand the dynamic of it. Visual lethargy is something that artists speak about and it means that the more that you see something the less you actually see it. For example, the first time that you drove to your new job or school, you’re conscious of all the new sights and scenes along the way, you notice that nice park, that interesting house, that beautiful tree. But by your twenty-first trip, you’ve quit noticing those things and you’re anxious about the traffic going faster so you can get to work before you’re late. Has that happened to you? It seems inevitable but although you may see all those things, after a while you really don’t see them and you’ve lost a degree of wonder, a degree of thankfulness, a degree of gratitude at the beauty of things. The beauty that once captivated you is still there, but you don’t see it, and you can’t really celebrate that which you don’t see. Visual lethargy- you lose a certain sense of awe at something beautiful.
But that doesn’t just happen to us on our drive to work, does it? We can experience that same visual lethargy when it comes to our magnificent God. Have we lost some of our awe of God? You see, God has designed each human being to be in awe of Him, to worship Him. Every human being is designed by the Creator to worship Him. And so every single person is worshipping someone or something. Even the most irreligious person is worshipping- they may be worshipping themselves, may be worshipping their job, their money, their hobby, their social life, etc. Everybody is worshipping something, their hearts are in awe of something. But whenever you operate something contrary to its manufacturer’s guidelines you’re going to have problems. If you try to pop popcorn in a coffee maker, it’s not going to turn out right. If you put kool-aid in your car engine instead of oil, you’re not going to drive very far. If you operate against the manufacturer’s instructions you’re going to have problems. So it is with life. God has designed every person for worship. Everyone is worshipping something. If that something isn’t the God of the Holy Bible, you’re operating against God’s design and you’re always going to be lacking, missing, searching, and you will never have true and lasting joy and peace and satisfaction and contentment and a sense of purpose in life.
The Christian’s entire life is really meant to be worship. Every act, every word, every thought that we have is really to stem from a heart that’s in awe of God. Generally when we think of worship we think of gathering here in church to formally worship God – that’s certainly part of our worship, but for the Christian, their whole life is an act of worship to God. Awe of God is what we’re after when we come into God’s house. Literally what worship means is not that I’m coming here to be entertained, or I’m coming to benefit my life somehow, the real goal of worship is to come before God and give him awe and respect – that’s the goal of our worship. But that’s also the goal of our lives.
Awe and respect of God should be the reason I fill my head with the thoughts I think about. Awe of God should be the reason why I treat my wife the way I do. Awe of God should be the reason why I parent my children the way I parent them. Awe of God should be the reason why I wake up in the morning and go to work. Awe of God should be the reason why I handle my possessions the way I do. Awe of God should be the reason I manage my finances the way I do. Awe of God is meant to rule and influence and affect every aspect of my life. But is it? And if not, why not?
You see, the danger is, when we lose our awe of God, we’ll replace it with awe for ourselves. There’s only two options: live for God or live for yourself. If I’m not living for God, then I’m living for myself. There’s a war going on inside of you and inside of me between the awe of God and all the “awe-inspiring” things around us that God created. And perhaps it’s our visual lethargy of who God is and what God has done that has caused us to see God, but not see Him, to know God, but to not really know Him. Are you losing your awe of God?
What is capturing your awe in life? Where do you find the greatest happiness in life? Or, where do you find your deepest sorrows, because you lost what? You see what happens? When we lose our awe for God, when we become numb to the Lord and who He is and what He’s done for us, we’re going to search for awe in some created thing. Then our awe is kidnapped and we attach our happiness in life to the wrongs things, our sorrow in life to the wrong things, and our anger in life to the wrong things. If we lose our awe in God, we’ll find it in temporary, fleeting things that won’t ever satisfy.
How do we get our awe back? How do we continue to stand in awe of God? It’s seeing Him once again. Really looking, not just a passing glance. And that’s what the Apostle Paul does for us in this last part of Romans chapter 11. He’s been considering all these truths about God and he erupts into this awesome song of praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” No one will ever outwit or outsmart or stump God. His wisdom and knowledge are way too deep. It’s like walking out into a deep lake or ocean and you get out so far and pretty soon you’re too deep to stand anymore. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. God is never confused, God is never at a loss as to what to do next, God will never throw up his hands and say, “Oh no! What am I going to do?” God is not worried about hurricane Irma or Harvey, God is not afraid of the fires out west. He knows perfectly just how to do operate things in our world for the good of His people.
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” Nobody can give God advice that He doesn’t already know. No one can give to God since God owns all things already. God has all things in His possession and He has power over all.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” Everything is God’s, He has all power, all might, all strength. He is infinitely more powerful than anything in all the world.
But what is absolutely jaw-dropping, astounding, amazing, and awe-inspiring is that our Creator God should use His infinite power and His infinite wisdom in order to rescue wayward sinners, like you and me. Why should the God of all the universe choose to save people like you and me who so easily and so often and so readily will lose our awe of Him for finding awe in things that are only fleeting and temporary? Why should God send His own Son into this world to suffer and die for sinful people like us who are all too prone to become bored and numb and careless about Him and His salvation?
There could only be one reason: awesome grace, mind-boggling love, extraordinary mercy. Instead of punishing us for our sins, God punished Jesus in our place, instead of sending us to hell, He made Jesus suffer hell in our place, instead of forsaking us, He forsook His own Son on the cross in our place. Why so? So that we would be His forever. What’s the only possible response to that grace? It can only be: Awe. Awe of Him and awe of what He’s done to save us. That’s worship. God is most glorified when we stand in awe of His love and His grace in sending Jesus to be our Savior. We do that in our lives when awe of God is at the base of all our thoughts, our words and our actions. We do that when we see signs of God’s awe all around us and it leads us to stand in awe of God and His grace. Signs simply point to something else. If you see a sign for Lake Bemidji, you don’t fish at the sign, the sign points you to the lake. So the beautiful, marvelous things of this world are signs, signs that point you to your marvelous and awesome God.
This week, worship your Lord. Stand in awe and marvel at who He is. And even greater, stand in awe of what He’s done for you in Jesus, rescuing you so that you can marvel at His grace throughout all eternity. Amen.