In our Preschool and Children’s Connect Groups, we are two weeks away from finishing our 3 year timeline of the Bible and The Gospel Project curriculum we have been using. We are in the book of Revelation. This week we are learning about John’s vision of Jesus on the throne. When John was sent to the island of Patmos, he received a vision of heaven. Part of the vision included the Lord on the throne asking who was worthy to open the seven seals on the scroll. One of the saddest things John witnessed was that there were none worthy. No one was found who was able to open the scroll and it broke John’s heart. It wasn’t until Jesus stepped up, that anyone was found worthy.
If we are honest with ourselves, we often give ourselves a little more credit than we are due. There are many things that we do that we feel like we should receive praise, recognition or acclamation for. We believe that if our behavior is good enough, we try our best in all we do, or we learn enough about God or the Bible then we deserve some type of reward or praise, or at least credit for what we did.
One of my least favorite phrases is, “you deserve it.” We hear this phrase all the time. I’m sure you’ve all heard it said, “you deserve a break today!” People often say things like, “I hope you have a great vacation, you really deserve it!” or “I hope you’re able to rest tonight when you get home, you really deserve it”, or something similar. We are told by the world that we deserve a lot of things. This is far from truth.
In Isaiah chapter 6, we read about a vision that he, Isaiah, had of Jesus as well. He saw the Lord seated on the throne and the angels flying around him saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Isaiah was in the presence of God himself. When I picture myself standing before God, I imagine being so awed by his glory that words will fail me. Isaiah felt something much stronger. His first response to standing in the presence of God was to see his sin and uncleanliness and to recognize his unworthiness. The first words out of his mouth were “Woe is me.”
Seeing the glory of God in all his splendor and majesty will truly put us in our place. When we are given a glimpse of who God is and how holy he truly is, we will see ourselves as who we really are, sinners who alone have nothing to offer, who deserve absolutely nothing, but have been saved and redeemed by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ. What a beautiful and extremely humbling picture it is.
There are two ways we can respond to this, and as believers we need to make sure our response shows the world that we have a true understanding of who God is and our relationship to him. The first way is that in our recognition of our sinfulness and unworthiness we live a life full of self-loathing with feelings of inadequacy. This is a depressing way to live, however, many people in the church feel this way. We wonder why God would choose us and love us. We think of all the ways we have failed him, sinned against him or given him a bad name and we live as though we are not good enough to be a part of his kingdom or his work here on earth.
The danger to living this way is that we do not allow ourselves to be used by him to our full potential, or to reach others who are seeking him. We might serve in a small capacity or sit silently in our Connect Group, hoping not to be called on, but we do not step up and allow God to work in and through us to make a difference in the lives of others. We are afraid of change, challenges and commitment. We live safe and quiet lives, keeping to ourselves mostly and hoping not to stir up any attention.
The other response we might have is to live in complete awe of who God is. It is rare to find someone living this way, but it is a beautiful picture. When you live in light of who God is, keeping this in mind in all you do, oftentimes the things of this world become insignificant in your eyes.
It’s not until we realize both of these truths, that we really aren’t good enough and have nothing to offer, along with the truth of God’s glory, grace and forgiveness, that we are able to live in a place of complete sacrifice and surrender to Christ. Isaiah was right. Woe is me. And you. God is so much greater and holier than anything we can ever attain to be. But God has replaced our rags with his riches. He has taken away our sin and guilt and shame and has covered us in his righteousness and cleanliness.
Staying in this mindset and way of life can be extremely difficult, and nearly impossible sometimes. Life and the things of this world can easily get in the way. As humans living in a world full of jobs, technology and busyness, we have to make time to quiet and fill our minds so that we are able to be brought back to this place of humility and admiration of who God is on a daily basis.
Oftentimes we try to overcompensate for our unworthiness by doing more. We wake up early and read our Bibles or some small devotional on our Bible app (believe me, there are some great devotions out there, I’m not knocking the Bible app, I’ve read many of them) hoping that if we start our day right then we will have a better chance of connecting with God and staying focused on his glory throughout our day. And there are times when this will work. But praise God for his mercy! On those days when this does not work, or our schedule, sleep and routine gets in the way of us being able to start our day at the feet of Jesus, God’s mercy is still available, and his glory does not change.
This past year, God has challenged me to practice the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. There are times when reading and talking to God isn’t what fills me for the day. There are times when he asks me to quiet my mind and be still before him. It isn’t until I stop and take the time to see him for who he truly is that I can stand in awe of his glory.
One of my favorite verses reminds me of this daily as it is posted on the wall above my computer in my office.
Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.
It’s not often that I am still enough to stop fighting my own battles and allow God to show me that he is fighting for me. But when I do, God allows me to be in that place of awe where I am able to worship him along with the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.”