Monday, January 4, 2010

People are Starving for the Greatness of God

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths" (Genesis 3:6).

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:21-25).

It might be impossible to overstate the devastating effects of the Fall of man into sin. Mankind has suffered thousands of years of misery, conflict and death as a result of that first sin. As I've pondered this over the last week, an interesting thought occurred to me. Man spends his entire life since the Fall: 1) trying to recover from the Fall, or 2) trying to escape the realities of the Fall for a little while. Try to think of something that you do that doesn't fit into one of those categories. You either work to improve your life or work to escape it (either mentally or physically). That's pretty much all you do.

One of the worst effects of the Fall is the futility of the mind and darkness of the heart. Notice what happened when Adam and Eve exchanged the truth about God for a lie. God "gave them up" to that futile darkness. We still suffer the same consequences today as we still follow the same foolish path of our first parents today. We are cursed by our own minds and led astray by our own hearts. This is true for Christians as well as non-Christians. I want to narrow our thoughts about this to one area: Christian living.

Go to the "Christian" bookstore. What do you see when you get beyond the pictures and candles and trinkets and cards? Hopefully you see some books. But what kind of books do you see there? If the store owner wants to stay in business, you see books the store owner thinks his customers will buy. So the supply of books is set by the demand of the consumer. This is important to think about because it tells us something about ourselves. Usually there will be a little shelf off in the corner somewhere labeled "Doctrine" or "Theology" or something like that. You won't find many books on that shelf. But the main section of the store will be broken down into "Fiction" "Christian living" "Ministry" "Marriage and Family" "Money" "Teen" "Counseling" "Charismatic" and things like that. This is where the store makes its living on books. The how-to section.

How do I manage my money? Go to the money section. How do I get along with my wife or how do I handle my unruly teen or how do I become a better housewife? Go to the family section. How do I have a good quiet time? Go to the Christian living section. How do I grow my church from 10 to 1,000? Go to the ministry section. How do I escape the reality of my pathetic life for awhile? Go to the fiction section. How do I fulfill my lust for romance novels without feeling guilty? Go to the Christian romance section where you can read about the new hunk pastor that comes to town on a white horse. How do I get the Holy Spirit to give me the desires of my heart? Go to the charismatic section. Do you get the idea? These are the books the stores carry because these are the books Christians think they need to get through life or mentally escape it for awhile.

Now, compare the above paragraph with this quote: "People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow... The greatness and glory of God are relevant. It does not matter if surveys turn up a list of perceived needs that does not include the supreme greatness of the sovereign God of grace. That is the deepest need. Our people are starving for God... Man-centered humans are amazed that God should withhold life and joy from his creatures. But the God-centered Bible is amazed that God should withhold judgment from sinners. One of the implications this has for preaching is that preachers who take their cue from the Bible and not from the world will always be wrestling with spiritual realities that many of their hearers do not even know exist or think essential." This quote is from John Piper's book The Supremacy of God in Preaching. This is one of the greatest books on preaching even though it is small.

I brought up the bookstore to point out that our buying habits display a fundamental flaw in our quest for fulfillment. How-to books cannot restore the wonder and majesty of God. They have their place. They can give some nitty-gritty advice on how to live after one has a big God swelling up in their hearts. But I question if one with such a God growing in their hearts would even need the how-to book. When we start with a big God, everything else seems to fall into place. When we start with a little God, then we try to fill in the gaps with how-to manuals that eventually foster self-righteousness.

As a Christian, seek to have your vision of God's glory and majesty and beauty expanded in your heart. Find books that will do this, starting with the Bible. If your pastor preaches sermons that seem heavy on God and light on application, don't chastise him for it. Thank him for it. If your pastor preaches little puff pieces with more jokes and self-actualization techniques then God, lovingly and privately challenge him to bring God to the center. Put down the Christian living book you're reading and pick up a book out of that oft-neglected "Doctrine" section and let your heart race with the big God you find there. Only a big God bringing a big gospel can enlighten our Fall-darkened hearts and correct our Fall-induced futile minds.


Nan said...


Great post!

I used to run to the "How To" section all the time!

The best "How To" book there is, I already own!

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