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?
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!”?
Be fearless, Nick