Scary God

Do we have the right view of God? This last Mother’s Day, churches sang how God was a good mother and called Him a she. In this new speak, God gave us His pronouns. He/Him.

Jesus, God the Son, describes him as Father. God is a good father, but He is also scary, and we’ve forgotten that. At the start of the year, I read Scary God: Introducing The Fear of the Lord to the Postmodern Church by Mattie Montgomery. Mattie is the former lead man of the band For Today. 

I liked this book a lot, with 114 highlights. However, I’ll try not to use them all. 

Now by scary, Mattie clarifies what he means. 

“I think I should say this early and clearly in this book: there is a difference between being scary and being mean. The risk in some teaching on the fear of the Lord is that people may be tempted to regard God as cruel and maniacal, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like any good father, He has a tremendous intensity and a capacity for violence—but these are driven not by uncontrollable rage or brutality, but by jealous love. The most frightening thing about God is simply how dramatically, indescribably different He is from any created thing.” 10%

“There is only one place that our lives are safe from the consuming fire of God’s holy presence, and that is the place of abiding. Seated and hidden in Christ.” 14%

“But don’t we need a God who is more than that? When your marriage is hanging on by a thread, don’t you need a God who is more than just “safe”? When your kids’ faith is being shaken by the seductive song of a godless culture, and the call of secular humanism is growing louder in their ears, don’t you need a God who is more than an “uplifting” idea? As true, biblical faith finds itself on the chopping block of inclusivity and religious relevance, we more than ever need a God who is not subject to our ever-shifting philosophies or worldviews. One who is not open for debate but One who cannot—will not—be tamed for the comfort of a self-indulgent generation.” 15%

If I heard someone saying this from a platform, I’d be saying, “Amen.” I don’t want a kind old grandfather in the sky when I’m in trouble. 

The following quote is one I wrestle with. 

“The subtle danger in all this is that we settle for the idea that the church should just be “nice.” We end up believing that being godly means being nonconfrontational. God’s people are no longer “bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1); instead, we’re nonthreatening yes-people who have been duped by the spirit of religion into thinking that we can flatter people into the kingdom.” 18%

Love people, but preach the truth. The how part is getting me because I haven’t got to call anyone a “brood of vipers” yet. 

It takes discernment. 

Dangerous God

“If we truly fear Yahweh, if we understand just how fierce, fiery, magnificent, stunning, and wild He is, right respect will naturally follow. But if we simply teach people to respect a God they’ve not learned to fear, their respect will be inadequate, casual, and insignificant, built on a foundation of obligation, not revelation.” 30%

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

“Then there is the way respect has been devalued in the wider culture. A hundred years ago—even thirty—society had a much greater sense of the need for respect. These days, everyone still wants to be respected: people are quick to take offense if someone says something they don’t like. They don’t want to be “dissed,” but neither do they want to give respect to others. “Respect has to be earned,” they say. Actually, no. 

Soldiers don’t wait until they feel their officers have “proved themselves” before following orders. Not if they want to avoid a dishonorable discharge. An employee doesn’t get to decide what he thinks of his boss before doing what he was hired to do. Not if he wants to keep getting a paycheck. Once, when my pastor announced a workday at our church, he didn’t tell everyone they had to be there, but we knew that it was important to him. It wasn’t a requirement; it was an opportunity for us to show him honor. Early the next Saturday morning, every single man in the entire church was there, ready to go—and with all of us pulling our weight, we finished the to-do list in less than an hour! No one had to beg us. We are men of honor, and we loved the opportunity to show it to the one God has placed in authority in our lives. 

Tragically, often many believers won’t even show that type of honor to God. He is the eternal Creator and we are His creation, and yet He has to beg or command some Christians to do something—and, at that, it needs to be something extremely convenient and beneficial for them to get their “yes.” That’s because they’ve forgotten who He is and what He’s done. 

There is no reason that God should have given His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins to restore us to relationship in Him. It was not because He needs us or because we have something that can benefit Him in some way. He is complete in who He is. He is simply perfect in all His ways—and that is worthy of our respect. There is nothing about any of us that merits Jesus’ sacrifice. Christ went to Calvary because He is good and because He is merciful and because He is compassionate, because He had pity on us in our rebellion and brokenness and selfishness. And that is worthy of our respect.” 31%

“God’s motive is relationship, not just rules. He didn’t give the Israelites the Ten Commandments and then scare them into trying to keep them. He showed them His awesomeness and fearfulness first, a glimpse of His amazing might and magnitude, and then He told them how they should live as a result. It is so important that we get this in the right order. Otherwise a relationship with God becomes something we try to live up to, to earn, rather than something we strive to live out, to experience. By the time they got to Sinai, the Israelites had already seen God’s awesome power, of course, but it had been directed at others. When Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, they got a glimpse of it for themselves, and it was frightening: “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16).” 36%

“In his answer to them, Moses got to the heart of it all: “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (v. 20). This is one of the times the Hebrew word used for fear is yare’, meaning “scared” or “frightened,” not “awe.” In other words, “Don’t be scared away. Be scared near.” This is God’s strategy for dealing with sin. If you have the fear of the Lord before you, in front of you, it’s like a protective barrier between you and sin. Knowing how all-consuming God is, we will think twice about lightly disobeying what He says. When we are so fixed on Him, sin can come calling and we won’t even hear the doorbell ring.” 

“But if we are truly walking in the fear of the Lord, we will be moved to right living, not to sin.” 37%

I’ve written on Joshua meeting Pre-Incarnate Jesus as Commander of the Lord’s Army in Joshua 5. Mattie’s pen blazes here with a much-needed reminder. 

“The only right response in the face of such authority and power was to submit. What I love so much about this encounter is how the fear of the Lord involved getting a correct perspective on what was going on. Yes, God was leading the people of Israel into the promised land, but He was not on their side. He reminded them that, actually, they were on His side—and that’s the only safe place to be. We need more of the same proper perspective in the church today. God doesn’t choose sides between us and our enemies. God Himself has aside, and we and our enemies get to choose whether we are going to join it or not. 

I’ve seen billboards put up by well-meaning churches that say things like, “God is for you.” I appreciate the intent of the message, but I always think, Well, He’s for you unless He is against you! The truth is, there are many people doing things and pushing agendas that God is most definitely against. Now, He loves them, and He wants them to be free, but that’s going to require them to change sides. God doesn’t move; we do. I understand that this may sound harsh, but as my spiritual father has said many times, “If this is rubbing you the wrong way, maybe you need to turn around!” True fear of the Lord will keep us from being presumptuous about our place in God’s plans and purposes.” 49%

Worship

“A few years ago, my oldest son, Kai, asked me, “Daddy, what is worship?” I reflected for a moment before offering an answer I thought a five-year-old could understand, an answer to a question I’m not sure I’d ever adequately understood myself. “Worship is anything you do to show God that you love Him,” I said. What’s key about this is that it becomes about you, not someone else you look to, like a song leader. Worship is no longer twenty minutes of singing before the Sunday sermon.”

For me, in nature, looking at creation, it’s easy to reflect on the power and artistry of God. Or I was listening in awe of what He’s doing in situations.

Eric Liddell, an Olympic athlete who became a missionary, said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

The following quote, I like. Not flipping tables, but there are times to do something.

Mattie Montgomery

“I was there to do some straight talking with a casual acquaintance of Candice and mine who’d made a big mistake. He’d sent my wife some flirtatious, sexual text messages that had upset her and ticked me off big-time. 

I’m not sure what he expected when I came in. He knew I was a Christian, so maybe he thought I was going to have a gentle heart-to-heart, invite him to come to church, and sing “Amazing Grace” with him. 

But I wasn’t there for any Jesus-meek-and-mild thing. I let him have it in no uncertain terms. Though I am generally a pretty easygoing, laid-back kind of guy, I’m big enough to be intimidating when I need to be. I wasn’t out of control when I went in to where he was sitting. I was used to being in intensely confrontational situations from my years with For Today. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. But I’d planned ahead that he might just get the idea I was about to lose it. So I made a bit of a scene. 

Without repeating here what I said, I made it abundantly clear through my words, my tone, and my body language that he had made a very—very—big mistake, and that it might be wise for him to avoid me and my wife from now on—like, walk the other way if he ever saw me coming down the street. 

This wasn’t about preserving my pride. It was about zeal for my marriage, protecting my wife’s purity and honor. I knew God could have mercy for this guy, but my job right then as a husband was to go to war against that which threatened my bride. And I did. 

This man was left with no doubt that he had crossed a boundary, and he’d be wise not to even think about doing it again. As aggressive and off-putting as they may have been, I believe my actions that day were God’s mercy in the offender’s life. I suspect he saw the seriousness of his secret sin for the first time that afternoon.” 68%

I’ve even heard preachers say that God’s not angry. I’m not sure what Bible they’re referencing. Mine is full of examples of God’s anger. Do a word search and you will find plenty of times God is angry. For example: “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). No, the issue is not whether God gets angry, but why and with what and with whom. God is angry at everything that mars His creation. He is angry at everything that threatens those He loves, that comes against them—not because He is hateful, but because He is moved to war against the things that oppose the object of His affection. Just as I was in that coffee shop. God is angry that corrupt politicians keep people impoverished. He is angry that selfish businesspeople charge exorbitant prices for medicines. God is angry that thousands of children around the world die each day because of dirty water.” 68%

Some may say, “Why won’t God fix it then?” 

He made it good, and then we broke it. He’s in the process of making it good again. That means getting rid of all the corruption, including people who aren’t on His side. 

He’s giving humanity every chance to repent.

“This anger stems from His great love for us—a great cosmic force that relentlessly consumes every noneternal thing in its path. His love is jealous (Ex. 34:14); it is passionate and unrelenting. To be the object of God’s love is to be the trophy for which He steps into battle.” 69%

As a parent, I resonate with the following quote.

“I catch a glimpse of God’s heart for us in my heart for my three boys. They do not have to do anything to cause my delight; they awaken it in me just by their very existence. I love everything about them—every movement of their hands, every expression on their faces. It’s not what they do but who they are—mine—that makes me delight in them. And, as with my wife, I am angered by anything that would come against them to try to diminish them—whether that’s from outside or from within. If they are threatened by something external, I will step in to protect and rescue them. When I see things like pride or self-centeredness or greed in them, I will also step in. I am angered because I know these things are enemies of God’s best for my boys. I will go to war against them—not against my sons personally. Because I delight in my children, I will not settle for less than they should and can be.” 71%

Meet God

“Before any of them, He is the Ultimate. He is the One who answers to no one, the One who sits enthroned above every other power, every other voice, every opinion. He is God, the great I Am, beyond the highest height of our imagination and the farthest breadth of our comprehension. He exists beyond the capacity of all human vocabulary and artistic expression. He is beyond speculation or criticism. He is Yahweh Elohim, the Father of Lights, in whom there is no change or shadow of turning (James 1:17). He may be fatherly toward me, but He’s not just Father. He may be friendly with me, but He’s not just Friend. He may have saved me, but He’s not just Savior. He is God without limit.” 72%

“We are so used to minimizing, rationalizing, or excusing our failings that we can’t grasp the idea of absolute holiness. But that is God—100 percent without flaw, totally perfect in every way. Our very best efforts will never be anywhere close enough to deserve God’s acceptance. The prophet said that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Paul had the same kind of image in mind when he wrote that all his religious zeal before he met Jesus meant nothing. All his supposed qualifications he now counted “as rubbish” (Phil. 3:8). I know this is a bold statement, but it is a biblical one: the unregenerate man can do nothing but sin. Understand, sin is not confined to the common list of things we hear in church: lying, stealing, cheating, cursing, and all that. In fact, it often works itself out in nice, well-received, outwardly admirable ways. Sin is not nearly as much an action of our hands as it is a posture of our hearts, and the greatest among us are still found lacking in the presence of a God who can see our hearts.” 73%

I’m going to start wrapping this up. Good on you if you stuck around this long. It’s a great book.

“First, we need to be clear about who’s in charge. There is a God in heaven, and we are not Him! He is absolutely 100 percent holy. He is utterly pure. He is totally and always right; He is unfailingly just. He never does anything wrong. He is completely without fault. It may not always look or feel that way to us, the way the world is today, but guess what! That just means we don’t see the big picture yet. I am not saying this to minimize anyone’s pain or struggles, and God does invite us to pour out our honest hearts to Him, our disappointments and frustrations.” 85%

When we truly acknowledge who God is, we will also be careful not to take His name in vain. It is a commandment, after all. This doesn’t mean just being careful not to use it carelessly in speech. It means being careful not to misrepresent it to others. As Christians we take on the name of God as a woman typically takes her husband’s last name when she marries; the two are identified together.” 86%

Uh-oh.

After all, when it comes down to it, we give time to what matters most to us. How much time do you give to God each day? I don’t mean in doing things for Him, but just being with Him, sitting in His presence, reading His Word, or worshiping Him. There’s an old saying that goes, “Children spell love T-I-M-E.” Well, in some ways, so does Yahweh. Availability doesn’t mean just telling God that He can call you anytime and then getting on with what you want to do. That’s passive faith.” 86%

Umm…

My friend Elijah, who works with me at Awakening Evangelism, puts it really well: “Most of the time, when I say I heard God’s voice, it’s not that I actually heard God’s voice, it’s that I thought God’s thoughts.” So be more attentive to your thoughts, and if you suspect they have been placed there by God, then act on them. 

Maybe it is something that is prodding you to step out of your comfort zone. If so, that could well be God, because when you do something that is beyond you, you have to rely on Him, and He is going to get the glory, right? I can already hear you asking, “But how do I know if that thought is from God?” 

Consider this: Charles Spurgeon wrote, “We declare, on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will will ever be constrained towards Christ.”

If that is true, then we must also acknowledge that a random thought that pops into our heads to pray for a stranger, or to share the love of God with the waitress at a restaurant, never could have come from our human will! Scripture clearly teaches that the human heart, left to its own devices, would never choose to glorify God at the expense of its own beloved comfort.” 89%

This would be how I would counsel. Much like Pastor Rod, they might only come once.

A dear friend of mine called the other day, in trouble. He was engaged to be married to a great young lady, but he’d just confessed to her that he’d been sending sexually explicit messages to someone else. He realized that everything he really wanted was now on the line. 

“Get over here,” I told him. When he arrived, he explained everything that had happened. Give him his due; he didn’t try to sugarcoat things. I listened. I asked a few questions. 

Then I let him have it. “We don’t do that here,” I told him sternly. “This is not what you and I represent.” I didn’t downplay things and try to make him feel better. I told him how dumb he’d been, and he agreed. Then I told him that he was better than that, and he agreed. Then I told him he could and would do whatever it took to rise above this, and he agreed. 

He knew that I wasn’t calling him out. I was calling him up, up to be the man he truly desired to be, up to the life he really aspired to. I could speak straight to this dear friend because we love and trust each other. We had been through the fire in ministry. 

We’d watched each other’s backs before, and he knew I’d do anything to see him succeed—even if it meant hurting him. We all need people like that in our lives, people we can be open and honest with. Real friends. A great Bible teacher once defined a friend as “someone who loves you but isn’t impressed with you.” 90% 

As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another.

Okay, I’m done, and I didn’t get all the highlights. It’s a great book. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it a post. And I only told two of his stories.

There’s one about an angel that gave me chills. 

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