Luther’s encounter with the holiness of God

Martin Luther’s first Mass as a monastic was a memorable moment for the friends and family who gathered to celebrate the occasion. Luther, not ever the shy one, began the ceremony with poise and confidence. No one expected how it would end.

When the time came for the Prayer of Consecration, Luther was supposed evoke God’s power for the miracle of transubstantiation (turning the wine and the bread into the actual blood and body of Christ). Instead, he froze.

Family and friends looked on nervously. Hans, Luther’s father, grew more embarrassed with every passing second. The hush filled the room as Luther quivered. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, Luther limply walked back to the table where his father was seated. He couldn’t say the prayer.

What happened at the altar? All he was supposed to say was, “We offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God.” But he went paralyzed. Luther wrote about the experience later on:

At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, “With what tongue shall I address such majesty, seeing that all men ought to temble in the presence of even and earthly prince? Who am I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall I, I miserable little pygmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that?’ For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and the true God.

Adapted from Sproul’s The Holiness of God.

God’s power upholds your faith

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The “who” in verse 5 refers back to the “us” in verse 3.

That means that those who have been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ are being guarded by God’s power through faith.

I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this, but it fascinates me that God preserves believers through their faith. Believers have the infinite might of God upholding their faith. Your faith will never die, because the power behind it is God’s power.

It’s another reason we shouldn’t put our faith in faith, but rather our faith should be in the God of our faith.

Kapeesh?

God will get glory from you

Psalm 19:1 says that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” We usually take that to mean that the stars are so magnificent that they give us a glimpse of God’s glory. That’s true, that’s one of the reasons stars exist. But this verse also lays the foundation that will help us understand the purpose of the heavens. God created the heavens, that is, the stars and the galaxies and the solar systems—to speak of his glory. In other words, the created universe has a purpose, and it’s purpose is to visibly display the invisibly glory of God. We can’t see God, but we can see the stars, and the stars exist to tell us something of the magnitude of the Creator. The purpose of the universe is to put God’s glory on display.

Proverbs 16:4 says that “the Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” What a profound statement! So not only the heavens have a purpose, every event in the universe has a purpose. Even wicked people have a purpose. God makes this perfectly clear when he tells Pharaoh that the reason he raised him up: “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). The evil Pharaoh served his intended purpose.

Paul takes this a step further in Colossians. “For by [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Paul says that everything was created through Jesus and for Jesus. The fascinating part is that Paul specifically mentions a class of creation he calls “dominions, rulers and authorities.” These terms are almost always used to refer to the  spiritual realm, demonic and angelic. Paul’s statement here is massive: He’s saying everything was created by Christ, for Christ—even angels and demons. Here we see it again: everything was created for a purpose, and that purpose is to exalt Jesus Christ.

If the wicked Pharaoh was used by God to bring him glory; if Satan and the demons will ultimately serve to glorify God—what about us? And the answer is that we too, will serve our purpose. We too, in the end, will bring glory to God. Look at Philippians 2:9-11—“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Did you hear that? Every knee in heaven, every knee on earth, every knee under the earth, will ultimately bow the knee to Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. This does not mean that every person will be saved and go to heaven. It does mean that every person will ultimately serve the purpose God created him for: to display his glory.

Yes, God will get glory from you. And he will do it in one of two ways. God will either glory himself by making you an object of his grace, or he will glorify himself by making you an object of his wrath. Remember, the universe is about God displaying the whole spectrum of his character—even the aspects of God that make us a little uncomfortable. God will either glorify himself by making you an object by which he displays the glory of his mercy, or by making you an object by which his displays the  justice of his wrath. God will use you on the canvas of the universe to show all the creation what kind of God he is.

Walking toward a mountain

It is wrong to think that following Christ gets easier with age. Paul didn’t think that way; he had no problem admitting in Romans 7 that he was a wretched man, or in 1 Timothy, the chief of sinners. 2 Timothy, the last written work we have from Paul, composed shortly before his execution, reveals him to be a man who has fought the good fight and has finished the race.  Yet, a few verses later,  he’s asking Timothy to make sure he brings the books and the parchments. Apparently, he wasn’t done striving. He desired to stay sharp. He wouldn’t let down.

A signal of Christian spiritual malfunction is ease in the Christian walk. I’m not talking here of circumstantial ease or circumstantial comfort. Those things are blessings from God. I’m talking about inner ease– the kind of attitude we usually call complacency.

We all have experienced this. It happens when we minimize sin, and relax our disciplines, and lose the wonder of God. Its symptoms are blame-shifting, name-calling, apathy, laziness, obsession with trivialities, self-centeredness, disobedience, etc.

Why call it a malfunction? Because if a Christian is growing in his relationship with the

Living God, his sin will be exposed, his heart will be humbled, his love for Christ will be deeper, his joy will abound, and his appetite will increase. The bigger your God is, the bigger your sin is. The heavier your sin, the more broken your back. The more shattered your person, the more glorious the healer. The more glorious the healer, the bigger your God. And the cycle goes on, unceasing, until eternity.

I like to use a metaphor that helps me explain this concept. Christianity is like walking toward a mountain. From a distance, we can tell it’s big. We can see the peaks against the backdrop of the sky, and it’s pretty. So we walk toward it.

The closer we get to the mountain, the bigger we realize it is. The peaks are massive sheets of granite; the valleys fall deeply from the heights. Giant sequoias look like hair covering the sleeping beast.

Standing before the mountain we feel infinitesimal. The winds blow cold and suddenly the same mountain that looked so tame from a distance reaches mighty and majestic above us. We thought we knew it from afar, but sitting at its feet we realize how little we know; how unprepared we are to ascend.

Our climb only serves to prove how incapable we are. The mountain is dangerous. The trails are often obscured. The weather isn’t always sunny. The jutting crags and sudden chasms slow our steps in caution. We’re not as sure as we used to be. In fact, most climbers stop here, and descend a little to find a place where the mountain is less demanding. Few press on.

But for those brave souls who continue the course, the mountain yields its treasure. They’ve been captured by the wonder of the place; they won’t leave, indeed, they can’t leave. They are enthralled by the majesty of it all. They long for breathtaking vistas and the stunning rock formations and the quiet pools that only the persistent have come to enjoy. They know that the mountain has infinite pleasure and unlimited treasures — so they spend the rest of their lives seeking them.

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Christians spend their lives traversing God. Complacency undeniably means you’ve lost the childlike wonder. And once God ceases to be awe-inspiring, we cease to explore him.

Our weightless God

It is one of the defining marks of Our Time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life…Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.

David Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, as quote in Don’t Waste Your Life; John Piper.