With Fear & Trembling…

(This is a prayer and exhortation from a regular worship service at BBC)

Almighty God and Father, through Thy grace we are blessed to be able to bless Thy name. We bless Thee as Maker and Master, Creator and Sustainer, of all that was, and is, or ever shall be. Thou didst speak the worlds into existence. The mountains stand by Thy command. The oceans toss and foam because Thou dost tell them to so. The earth shakes at the sound of Thy roaring.

When we disobeyed Thy voice, when we did not love Thy Word, the world grew wicked and so Thou didst speak a flood to consume us. But men despised Thy word again and lifted themselves up and built a great city with a tower reaching up into the sky. Thou camest down and spoke a flood of confusion. When our fathers went down into a strange land, they became enslaved by the gods who are no gods, by their sins, and by a wicked tyrant who did not know Thee and who refused to bow to Thy Word. So Thou didst speak blood in their rivers and sores upon their backs. Thou didst speak flies and locusts and Thou didst destroy their land. The light of the wicked was put out and they went down into the darkness of death, but Thou didst have mercy on Thy people and shined Thy light upon them, and they walked through the sea unharmed with walls of water on their right hand and on their left.

Again and again, Thou have been our faithful God. Thou hast been our fortress, our rock, our stronghold, our deliverer, our judge, our Savior. When we have forgotten Thy word, Thou hast risen up for us. When we have rejected Thy word, Thou hast had mercy upon us. When tyrants and cruel men have oppressed us and taunted us and sought to crush us, Thy mercies have been new every morning. And by Thy compassion we were not consumed. Great is Thy faithfulness.

And in the fullness of time, Thou didst send Thy Word to heal us, and the Word became flesh dwelt among us. But sinful men hated Thy Word again. They despised it. They rejected it. They spat on it. They mocked it. They condemned it. And finally, they crucified it. They hung Thy Word, Thy Good Word, Thy Life-Giving Word on a cross. They drove spikes through His hands and feet and they drove a crown of thorns into His head. They pierced His side with a spear. And they buried Him in a tomb, sealed with a stone, and guarded by a regiment of Roman soldiers. All in vain hopes to silence the voice of God.

But Father, Thy Word could never stay dead. Thy Word cannot be silenced or else the whole world would cease to exist. Apart from Thy Word, we would not be alive. And so Thy Word, crucified for sinful men, judged for sinful men, buried for sinful men, swallowed up all our sin, all our death, and all our evil. What our sin deserved, Thy Word spoke justice. What our guilt demanded, Thy Word spoke the ransom paid. What we could not do, Thy Word said, It is finished.

And on the third day, Thou didst raise Thy Word from the dead with indestructible life. And when He had been seated at the right hand of Power, He poured out His Spirit of Power and Comfort on all who trust in Him. And Thou didst speak the Word of a New Creation which would reverse the curse, restore the covenant, and redound to the praise of Thy glorious grace.

Father, we are in Thy house as living proofs of this Word, Thy Living Word, alive from the dead forever. We are here because we were dead in our sins, and we hated Thy Word. But Thou didst break through all of our excuses, all our pride, all our sin, and Thou didst raise us up to life and light. We have tasted immortality and the power of the world to come. Thou hast shown us a glimpse of Thy grace and glory, and now we cannot get enough. We praise Thee. We worship Thee. We bow before Thee. We lay our lives before Thee. All that we are belongs to Thee. Take our lives and use them. Take our energy and spend it. Take our feeble attempts and make them sing. We are Thy servants, and everything that we are is for the glory of The Triune God.

To this end Thou hast taught us to pray,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Awe or Aww?

The mercy of God is an ocean without a shore. Grace is a river that consistently overflows the banks. The goodness of God is always in flood stage. But we, afflicted with various forms of unbelief, are always quick to believe that God is somehow looming on the threshold with a thunderbolt in His hand. If we provoke Him just one more time, He will throw all His promises away, and separate us from the goodness of the gospel, as far as the east is from the west. But of course, this is perversion. This is folly. This is the original satanic lie that called into question the intrinsic goodness of our God. The cultivation of this kind of attitude is not godly or holy, but is the product of cynicism and unbelief. God calls us to humility, not to the vocation of being a nervous head case.

So, you are coming to worship God right now, and must therefore fix these things in your mind. He delights in our approach. He welcomes us as we come. He bids us to come boldly. When the gates of heaven open, as they are right now, and we come in, He smiles upon us. This makes us tremble, as it ought to. It fills us with awe, as it should. But the glorious fear that causes us to tremble at this point must not be a craven rejection of His promises. Love and faith tremble in one way. Guilt and condemnation tremble in another way. Awe trembles towards life; condemnation trembles towards death. One of our basic duties in worship is to learn this difference. If we do not learn this distinction, and pursue His promises, then we will either implode in a frenzy of self-condemnation – or, as many have done, we will drift into a worship that is nothing more than a complacent routine that is twice-dead but lacks the common decency to be buried.

So take courage. Embrace joyful fear. Worship your God now, in the beauty of holiness.

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