He’s Not a Tame Lion

Revelation, chapter 4, begins with the disciple, John, being transported beyond spatial-temporal human existence into the throne room of heaven itself and the eternal presence of Almighty God.  For John, it’s an awe-inspiring, terrifying scene as he begins recording for us the drama that will unfold immediately before the terrible judgment of God on a sinful, rebellious world.

On John’s description of the “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” surrounding God’s throne, one scholar comments, “this is not a sign of nature but a firestorm of righteous fury from the awesome, powerful God upon a sinful world.”

What’s my point?  (Good question)

Modern culture tends to see the Jesus of the Bible as merely a “nice guy.”

The 20th century, British apologist, Dorothy Sayers, offers some insight:

“The people who crucified Christ never,… accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations (us) to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mild’…”

But, the “nice – Jesus is my homeboy – Jesus” our modern culture likes to envision doesn’t exist.

It never did.

“Nice guys” aren’t vilified by the religious leadership of the day.  And, further, “nice guys” certainly aren’t given over to Roman execution.

The Jesus of 1st century Judea was certainly loving, kind, and generous.  But he was also uncompromising in his gospel message to mankind, delivering, on one occasion, a blistering message to the Pharisees, and, on another occasion, a message so pointed and “uncomfortable” to his listeners most of those who had been following him told him to, in essence, “take a hike” and left for good.

Jesus had no patience for sin when he walked this earth – and nothing has changed since then.  After saving the woman caught in adultery from the death penalty, he made certain to give her a sobering command:  “Stop sinning against God.”

In Revelation, chapter 5, Jesus is described as the “Lion from the tribe (or bloodline) of Judah.”

And he’s not a tame lion.

In his Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis includes a conversation between his characters, Mr. Beaver, and the children who’ve recently stumbled into Narnia.  The “Christ representing” lion, Aslan, is the topic of discussion and Mr. Beaver is attempting to describe him:

Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you…  He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

The first time Jesus came was as a Suffering Servant.  The next time  – he’s coming as Reigning King and Righteous Judge.

In his book, Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli sums up what our modern culture has either forgotten, or lost altogether – our humble reverence and healthy fear of God:

No fear of God. No fear of Jesus. No fear of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we have ended up with a feelgood gospel that attracts thousands … but transforms no one.

It is time for Christianity to become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, “Fear not”; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or doctrine or theology, but the constant awareness of God’s terrifying presence in our lives.

The nice, nonthreatening God needs to be replaced by the God whose very presence smashes our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. A healthy, childlike fear should make us more in awe of God than we are of our government, our problems, our beliefs about abortion, our doctrines and agendas, or any of our other earthly concerns.

Our God is perfectly capable of both calming the storm and putting us in the middle of one.

Either way, if it’s God, we will be speechless and trembling … and smiling, too.

It’s time to become people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He dares to hold us in His terrifying, loving presence. How did we end up so comfortable with God?

How did our awe of God get reduced to a lukewarm appreciation of God? How did God become a pal instead of a heart-stopping presence? How can we think of Jesus without remembering His ground-shaking, thunder-crashing, stormy death on the cross? Why aren’t we continually catching our breath and saying, “This is no ordinary God!”?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

 

Drawing Near to God – And What It Cost Him

TempleVeil

Understanding what it means to be able to “draw near to God”…

There are people in important roles whose office I could call today and be told either it will be days or weeks before I can see them, or that I can’t see them at all.

Not so with the God who spoke the Cosmos into existence.

The Old Testament Law was given by God not to make us perfect but rather to show us how utterly imperfect we are in our sin.

An important part of that Law was the role of the Levitical Priests (Old Testament priests were members of the tribe of Levi). The priests were instructed by the Law to intercede for mankind. In other words, outside of God choosing to speak to an individual like Daniel or Gideon, or prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, regular people had no intimate access to God. Only priests had that privilege.

Think about that for a minute.  In Old Testament times you and I couldn’t talk to God. We had to wait our turn and go through a priest.

Additionally, only once a year, the high priest (the highest rank of all Levitical priests) – and only the high priest -had permission to enter the Holy of Holies (a designated inner room in the Old Testament tabernacle) to offer blood from an animal to atone for the sins of mankind. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin,” the author of Hebrews wrote.

This entering of the Holy of Holies was no casual or hurried experience.  Jewish tradition cites if the high priest did not keep every single required step in this process he did so at the risk of immediate death – this is how seriously God has always taken the atonement for the sin of mankind.

Bottom line: the Law kept mankind outside the intimate presence of God.

But God so loved the world…

The author of Hebrews wrote, “the Law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is (now) introduced through which we draw near to God.”

This was revolutionary news to first century people.

God introduced his new covenant. The need for human priests was fulfilled in the perfect life, death and resurrection of our true High Priest, Jesus Christ.

At his death, the veil in the Old Testament tabernacle that separated the designated human high priest from the Holy of Holies – which symbolized God’s intimate presence – was torn in two from top to bottom signifying the immediate arrival of the new covenant of God with man through Christ.

No longer did mankind need a human being to intercede to God on their behalf. “There is (now) one mediator between God and man,” Paul wrote, “the man, Jesus Christ.”

To the Ephesians believers, Paul encouraged them with this life-changing good news: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Now, because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, you and I can approach the throne of God boldly. About anything. Anytime. Anywhere. No wait time. No line to see him.

Stop for a moment and visit with God today. He loved us so much he gave his only Son up to Roman execution so that we might have intimacy with him – and he with us.

Love you all, Nick

The Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision: a collection of Puritan prayers is a book of prayers I have in my library. The Puritan Movement took place primarily during the 16th & 17th centuries.

As with any “religiosity” the corrupt heart of mankind can twist God’s Word to mean what they want it to mean – hence, the completely unbiblical actions of the religious leadership surrounding the Salem Witch trials during the Puritan era.

However, although the wicked events claim most of the press, most Puritans were just like us: broken people trying to navigate this sometimes painful and chaotic thing we call life. The prayers in the book mentioned above, and cited below, represent the fervent prayer-life of these precious, broken people. Enjoy and be inspired… nw

“O incomprehensible but prayer-hearing God,

I thank you for the riches to me in Jesus – for the unclouded revelation of him in your Word where I behold his person, character, grace, glory, humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection.

I come to you with nothing of my own to offer – no works, nothing of worth, no promises. Just me.

Deliver me from the natural darkness of my own mind, from the corruptions of my heart, from the temptations to which I am exposed, from the daily snares that attend me.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between what I receive and what I deserve – the heaven I am bound for, the hell I deserve.

O God, it is amazing that we can talk so much about our mere human power and goodness when, if you did not hold us back at every moment, we would be devils incarnate.

Nothing exceeds your power. Your might is infinite, your grace limitless, your name glorious.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, for prodigals restored, for Satan’s captives released, for blind eyes opened, for broken hearts healed, for giving us hope in a sometimes hopeless world.

Destroy in me every lofty thought. Break my pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds.

Let my words and actions be firmly rooted in your Word.

I ask great things of a great God.

Amen”