God’s mission is theodoxic – it is driven by his plan to reveal (apocalyptic) the fullness (pleromic) of his consummation-producing (metamorphic) glory (doxa) in his creation. Though the first Adam failed, the second Adam brought and is bringing (already/not-yet) this about. In light of this, the glory of God is a tremendous orienting theme of biblical theology, and in his book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Paul Tripp speaks to this wonderfully in terms of our awe:
What is the overriding worldview of [Psalm 145]? It is that every human being has been hardwired by God to live in daily awe of him. This means the deepest, most life-shaping, practical daily motivation of every human being was designed to be the awe of God….
Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God….
This means that every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and a myriad of self-interests that nip at their hearts, and awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory rather than their own. Missions and evangelism must be awe-driven. Remember, Paul argues that this is the reason for the cross. He says that Jesus came so that “those who live may no longer live for themselves, but for him who loved them and gave himself for them” (see 2 Cor. 5:15).
Awe of God is one of the things that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation. Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but whatever awe of theology we have is dangerous if it doesn’t produce in us a practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don’t put our trust in our strategies but in the God of awesome glory, who is the head of the church we are endeavoring to lead well. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. We cannot grow arrogant and smug about our gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God we serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy in its proper place. Yes, we should want to lead people in worship that is both biblical and engaging, but we have no power to really engage the heart of people without the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit, who propels and applies all we seek to do. Awe of God puts our buildings and property in their proper place. How a building is constructed, maintained, and used is a very important issue, but buildings have never called or justified anyone; only a God of awesome sovereign grace is able to do so. Awe of God puts our history and traditions in their proper place. Yes, we should be thankful for the ways God has worked in our past, and we should seek to retain the things that are a proper expression of what he says is important, but we don’t rest in our history; we rest in the God of glory, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
We must be committed to do anything we can to be that generation that commends God’s works, his glory, to the next generation so that they may be rescued and motivated by a glory bigger than the typical catalog of glories they would choose for themselves.
The wonderful benefit of focusing on the glory of God and our awe of him is that it diverts us from our typical focus on our efforts or methods (read: law) to the Gospel – God’s work in history on our behalf for the sake of Jesus Christ. What a joy that we worship the missional God who has revealed his glory in the person and work of Christ (John 1:14; 2:11), and who has promised to transform our lowly bodies into the image of the glorious body of our Savior (Phil. 3:21)!
(Note: Make sure to read Shane’s excellent review of this book.)
Assistant Professor of Old Testament
MTS Program Director
Mid-America Reformed Seminary
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