Welcome to the Ask Pastor John podcast. This week we welcome back author and speaker Dr. Paul David Tripp. Paul will be filling in this week. Most recently Paul is the author of the book Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do — which easily made my top-ten list for best books of 2015.
This week we are talking about awe in the awesome glory of God, and how this awe in God really does relate to everything in life — specifically, to our spiritual growth, our Bible intake, our ministry aims, and even our news consumption, our anxieties, our weight-loss attempts, our parenting methods, and our expectations of marriage and romantic love. Those are the topics for us this week, and it will be a full week, so let’s dive in.
Paul, in the book you wrote, “Spiritual growth is about recapturing your awe.” That is a great line. Envision for us here: How does spiritual growth in the Christian life work dynamically?
The first thing that you need to understand is that God hardwired all human beings for awe. There is a quest inside of us to be amazed, to wonder, to have something that is so great and so awesome and so compelling that we want to live for it. That we are willing to make sacrifices for it. It will be the thing that will get us up in the morning. That is all of humanity.
So being connected to God through Jesus Christ is essentially being given back my awe again, because what happens in sin is that awe of God is replaced by awe of other things — most centrally, awe of myself. That is what is captured in 2 Corinthians 5:15: Jesus came so that “those who live” — very interesting terminology — “would no longer live for themselves.” You could argue that Christian growth is a growth in my awe of God. The thing that dominates me more and more is the wonder of God and the wonder of my attachment to God by grace.
You could ask me, “Why do you treat your wife the way you do?” I could say, “Because of my awe of God.” “Why do you parent your children the way you do?” “Because of my awe of God.” “Why do you spend your money the way you do?” “Because of my awe of God.”
Yes, this is all-encompassing. So this is really fundamental to what it means to be a creature made in God’s image.
That is right, and that is why I think it is sad that this kind of language has been lost by the church. People say, almost with a bit of wonder: “Why would you ever want to write a book on awe?” And it is because it is not familiar, intuitive language even to believers. And the heart of spirituality is living in wonder of the divine.
So let’s get practical. What should a Christian be looking for in their Bible?
Glory. If every day I am not beckoned, wooed, and — if I could use this term in a positive sense — seduced by the glory of God, I will be wooed and tempted and seduced by something else. And literally the thing that splashes across every page of the word of God is the magnificent glory of God. The Scriptures are meant not just to be a sort of logistical wisdom book that helps us to live a better life. The Scriptures are meant to finally point us to that one place where our hearts can rest and be satisfied because we are exposed to wonder that is unlike any wonder that we have ever known before.
Our lives are either captured by the majesty of God, or they will be captured by all the fears of life — fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of the future. How does awe in God confront our fears?
I have actually felt that this book, which has come out at a time where we are all shocked by Paris and shocked by San Bernardino and shocked by millions of Syrian refugees who have no place to live and are risking death to find a new home — when it seems like the world is at fire — this book has come out, and it is so timely. And here is why I think that: It teaches an understanding that fear, horizontal fear — whether that is fear of acceptance or fear of my physical health or fear of a loss of a job or fear of terrorism — is only ever disarmed by fear. It is only the fear of something greater that disarms the fear of something lesser.
You know where you see that. You see that in that great moment when Israel is in the Valley of Elah, and they are facing the Philistine army. And out comes that great warrior Goliath that first day who says, “Send me your best.” And what the army of Israel does is retreat back in their tents for forty days and commiserate. Now there is an army that doesn’t have a military problem. They are in fear because they have an awe problem. They are in the tents fearing because they are awe amnesiacs, because the God who delivered that Promised Land to them said, “I will deliver these nations into your hands. I am the Lord Almighty.”
So David shows up. And David doesn’t have that awe problem, because David knows god delivered the lion, and he delivered the bear, and he will deliver this Philistine this day (1 Samuel 17:37). And so David is willing to march into that valley with a silly shepherd’s sling and five stones because it is the fear of God that disarms his fear of this giant warrior. That is how it operates. It is when my heart is so filled and satisfied with that reverential fear of God that I am not then able to be captured by all of the horizontal fears of life in a fallen world.
Gaze Upon Glory
That’s so good. So our awe of God, which includes a fear of God, must dwarf the loudest news cycle.
Absolutely. And I want to just express this concern: I think that more than ever before Christians are news junkies. More than ever before ,through social media and websites and a twenty-four-hour news cycle, we are aware of what is happening around us. And I think for many of us that has been the rise of fear. And maybe more than ever before, we need to quietly meditate and gaze upon the glory of the Lord so that we do not give way to fear.