Toward a Theology of Reverence and Awe

It is staggering to think that the life of faith is really an invitation to share in the nature of God.  He is holy, and he calls the believer to a life of holiness, providing the means and the might to make it happen.  He is loving, and He pours His love through us in surprising ways.  He is just, merciful, gracious, and wise — and the list could grow very long, but — miraculously — it is a list that the believer can grow into by walking in obedience to the commands of God through the power of the Spirit of God within.

In None Like Him, Jen Wilkin ponders another list of God’s attributes:  the ones in which humans are not invited to share, and which, by their very nature, can be true only of God.  She examines ten of these traits, helping her readers to appreciate the uniqueness of God while at the same time disclosing the startling truth that, like our ancestor Eve, we are still in the family business of aspiring to become like God.  The challenge for us, then, is to aspire to be more like our Heavenly Father without seeking to usurp His position!

Only God is infinite.

He cannot be measured, and He has no  limits or boundaries.  Job 11:7-9 finds even the vast heavens and the broad seas are not not up to the job of demonstrating the infinitude of God’s greatness.

A right response to an immeasurable God is celebration of our own God-ordained limits.  They teach us the fear of the Lord and remind us that we are not meant to be “like God in His unlimited divinity; we are to be like God in our limited humanity.  Image bearing means becoming fully human, not becoming divine.”

Only God is incomprehensible.

A life time of searching the Scriptures will not uncover all that there is to know about God — and yet He is able to be “sufficiently known.”  By contrast, we humans are knowable and known by a Creator whose expertise (expressed in Psalm 139:1-6) surpasses even our own self-knowledge.

Believing that only God is an expert on human nature relieves me of the “responsibility” for judging my neighbor’s faults, allowing me to bring my own faults to the God who understands my nature and invites me into a life-long exploration of His limitless perfection.

Only God is self-sufficient.

Acts 17:24-25 makes the critical connection between God’s creative power and His absolute independence from His creation.  This is a cause for rejoicing, for since God has no needs, He cannot be tempted by anything.  On the other hand, our needs are many and urgent.  Although we have been bent and broken by the fall, this state of dependence is not an outcome of our fallenness.  Adam and Eve were created to need God and his provision.  Ironically, it is when we view need as a flaw and suppress our humanity (again, striving to be God), we go without necessary rest, “starve ourselves to a size 2,” and practice saying “I’m fine” in front of the mirror until we believe it ourselves.

Divine self-sufficiency is a given.  Human attempts to masquerade as self-sufficient lead to prayerlessness, forgetfulness of God’s provision, anger at our limitations, side stepping the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we sin, and refusing help from brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

Only God is eternal.

Time binds us like cords.  It chafes against our do-list and keeps us in continual catch-up mode.  Even our preferences and manner of life are time bound to the era that we call home.  God, on the other hand, transcends time — even book-ending it!  Like Gandalf, he is “never late, nor is He early.”  His actions occur precisely when he intends for them to.

Even so, we arrogate to ourselves the grasping irony of putting God on a deadline rather than honoring this attribute by trusting Him.  We demonstrate this trust by letting go of the past, leaving the future with Him, and living fully in the moment.  Viewing time as a gift from the God who owns time results in days that are lived well with a priority on relationships over possessions and with a prayer on our lips that God would “establish the work of our hands.”

Only God is immutable.

When the Psalms refer to God as our rock over twenty times, the biblically fluent will take comfort in this imagery of changelessness.  There is much to ponder here, even in regard to His attributes, for nothing we do can add to or diminish His glory.  God will never be more holy or less faithful than He has ever been.  This is good news, for He has set His love upon us, and this, too, is unchangeable.

As creatures, however, we are subject to continuous change, and my own particular discomfort with this established truth reveals in me a serial idolatry, fixed upon whatever condition or person that is in flux:  “I need YOU to be God for me, so please just stay the same.”

Our species’ tendency to usurp God’s place is, I believe, most prevalent in this sentence about change:  “That’s just who I am.  I can’t change.”  Jen Wilkin summarizes the situation:

“Just as my assurance of salvation rests in the fact that God cannot change, my hope of sanctification rests in the fact that I can.”

Only God is omnipresent.

It stretches the mind to conceive of God’s uncontainable nature.  He’s “not engaged in some cosmic game of Twister, trying to stretch Himself between an infinite number of locations,” and yet He is fully present in all places past, present, and future.  Although He fills all of creation and is near to us in every sense, he is distinct from His creation.

As one of His creation, I hunger for this combination of immanence and transcendence — and technology can even give me the illusion of it. Jen calls it “makeshift omnipresence” — this addiction we have to multitasking and efficiency that would keep me from ever having a face-to-face conversation with my boys or entering fully into any one task or event.

Only God is omniscient.

It follows that since God is everywhere, He is able to know everything.  He did not learn what He knows — and unlike me, He will not forget it. It would be a long pondering to even begin to appreciate the implications of God’s all-knowing, but, once again, technology is helping me to chase after this off-limits-to-humans attribute with an “all-you-can-eat buffet” of data, trivia, inspiration, and drivel.  Research shows that we suffer from information overload, but this unhealthy desire for unlimited knowledge goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, and Solomon saw the tie between endless consumption and weariness.

Honoring the omniscience of God fleshes itself out in an acceptance of His perfect way (Ps. 18:30); a refusal to bargain with Him or to try to fool Him.  When I view the myth of human omniscience through the lens of Truth, I can conclude that “because God holds all knowledge, I don’t have to.”

Only God is omnipotent.

Job’s ultimate acceptance of the will of God was based upon his acknowledgement of God’s power.  Creating and sustaining all things, His power is infinite.  Humanity attempts to wield our own versions of power based upon physical strength, beauty, charisma, or wealth only to find that we are in the power of these forces.  In the end, it is God’s power at work in us that will bring about the transformation and security that we seek.

Only God is sovereign.

While the previous attributes focused on God’s ability to act, His sovereignty asserts that God is unlimited in His authority to act.  The only sensible conclusion that we can draw from our consideration of God’s nature is that “the most right and logical place for God to inhabit is a throne.” It goes without saying that the essence of our sin nature is to question and to attempt to usurp the sovereignty of God.  We doubt His motives; we crave control.

Ironically, the myth of human sovereignty leads some to the pursuit of an impossibly perfect and ageless body, an obsessive accumulation and maintenance of possessions, controlling relationships and a spirit of legalism.  It is far better to honor God by accepting His delegated authority in areas which are mine to control:  my thoughts, my attitude, my words, and my actions.

The tremendous amount of theology that permeates None Like Him is certain to inoculate the reader’s heart against the disease of awe-lessness.  Each chapter begins with a creative hook that anchors the truth into a concrete foundation:  the unchanging reference point of mountains on the horizon leads the mind into thoughts about God’s immutability; the pink-fuzzy Energizer bunny demonstrates our quest for the perpetual energy source; fear of tornadoes reveals our uneasy relationship with the raw and unpredictable power of nature.

I am planning to use this book as a guide in teaching the kids in my weekly Sunday School opening exercises one lesson per week on the attributes of God, because I believe the material is that accessible.  (And, like Madeleine L’Engle, I believe that if information is “too difficult for grown ups,” then you teach it to children.)

Also, committing this list of ten attributes to memory is a faith-building and awe-generating exercise that will enhance God-focused prayer.  Considering these truths in light of the incarnation brings into focus the stunning sacrifice of God the Son who was suddenly subject to the full range of human needs and limitations.  Embracing those limitations and acknowledging their ultimate opposite in the God-head cannot help but lead to a new appreciation and joy, fear and awe of the God we worship.

//

This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

53 thoughts on “Toward a Theology of Reverence and Awe”

  1. Michelle, thank you for sharing these ten attributes. It certainly does usher us into a spirit of worship! There is no one like our God! Glad to be your neighbor at #liveffree Thursday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we all need to have our eyes focused on the greatness of God — and you are wise enough to see that! And, Michelle, each chapter can really stand alone, so it’s a great book for serials trips to the beach!

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  2. What powerful statements about the Character of our God, Michele! I was especially moved by this: The challenge for us, then, is to aspire to be more like our Heavenly Father without seeking to usurp His position! It reminds me of our deep our need for worship is, and how careful we must be to keep God on the throne and our knees solidly planted on the ground beside His feet.

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    1. Yes, Elena, I also was impacted by Jen’s first book. Right now I’m leading a book club with the women of my church and we’re traveling through that book. Very exciting!

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  3. ” Jen calls it “makeshift omnipresence” — this addiction we have to multitasking and efficiency that would keep me from ever having a face-to-face conversation with my boys or entering fully into any one task or event.” Ouch! I saw myself in those words …

    Hey, guess who your neighbor is at Grace and Truth today? More than once, we’ve been side to side on the link-up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for these reviews – I truly appreciate them.

    If someone knew me as ‘coworker’ only, that would not be my sum total. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a gardener, etc., etc.

    So many are quick to quote that God is Love. While that is very true, God is SO MUCH MORE! The aspects of God that Jen Wilkin highlights are enormous! A lot to ponder here.

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  5. I just added the book to my library request. I am so thankful I can turn everything over to the One who controls it all. Thanks Michele, for linking up with Thankful Thursdays.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michele,
    I loved reading this reminder of how God is NOT like me, especially the point that He is immutable (unchangeable). I afford myself way to much credit when I think that I will disappoint God, or He’ll change His mind depending on His mood and subsequent view of me. God is not fickle, wavering, and changeable like I am. All I have to say to that is Amen!!
    Blessings,
    Bev

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    1. I’m so glad that you shared these thoughts, Bev. And it’s wonderful to know that my actions have no bearing on the “condition” of God’s heart. Unlike me, he is not subject to moods or dependent upon the good behavior of others!

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  7. This is such excellent food for thought. Meditating on what it means to be a child of God and yet fully human, this morning. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention and for the thorough précis!

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    1. I’ve been enjoying that list of ten attributes. And thanks for the new word! I had to look up precis, and as you can see I don’t even know how to convince my keyboard to type the fancy “e”! Thanks for reading!

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  8. We did a unit study on the attributes of God a few years ago. It was amazing. I love your mention of Madeleine L’Engle; she’s one of my favorite authors and has been since I was 11!

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    1. Thank you for loving that mention! She’s one of my favorites, too, and I noticed last night that I mentioned her in the preceding post about Luci Shaw’s book as well, so I’d better be careful or I’m going to start sounding like a fan girl.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Only God… I find myself saying those 2 little beautiful words often these days. I love all of these important facts you’ve shared about our one and only God. Thank you for these reminders, Michele!

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  10. I think it’s a great idea to use this book in your Sunday school class, Michele. I well remember learning about those big “O” words when I was a kid, and I’ve always appreciated that those teachers didn’t think we were too young to understand these concepts! Wonderful review … sounds like an amazing book!

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  11. Reverance and awe….in a world focused on me, me, me, it is refreshing to be drawn to God and his awesome attributes! This book is on my list to read! Thanks for linking up with Fresh Market Friday and sharing a great book review. Crystal~

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    1. Yes, Crystal, in fact one of Jen’s points is that when we read the Bible, we have a tendency to make it “all about us,” when truly the Bible is a book about God. Hope you enjoy the book as well!

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