|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2009|
|If what the Bible says is true: that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (Prov. 9:10), then what does the Bible mean when it says that we are to “fear the Lord”? Perhaps the most accurate way of expressing this today is “Taking God seriously.”|
If what the Bible says is true: that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (Prov. 9:10), then what does the Bible mean when it says that we are to “fear the Lord”? Perhaps the most accurate way of expressing this today is “Taking God seriously.” Since we live in a seriously troubled times, why don’t we take God more seriously? Do you take God seriously? If so, how would you know? What does it mean to take God seriously and why is it important? How do you know if people are serious about their faith in God? Here are four criteria of seriousness. Those who are serious about their faith:
In one study, a sample of American adults was asked if they were a Christian: 85% said, “Yes.” But how many of that 85% do you suppose were serious about their faith in God? Hint: not 85%.
A lot of “Christians” simply don’t take their faith seriously. They have their fire insurance and for them, following Christ in their daily lives is optional. If they get in trouble, they pray. If they get enough sleep Saturday night, they go to church. Otherwise, they mostly do their own thing.
Jesus had an experience in the house of a Pharisee who invited him to dinner. A prostitute showed up and began to show her adoration to the Lord. His host criticized him for allowing this, but Jesus asked him who is the most grateful: the creditor who is forgiven a small debt or the one forgiven a large amount? The host said that would be the one forgiven a large amount. Jesus told him he answered correctly, then added, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Simply put, those who love Christ very little are not very serious about their faith in him.
While “good” people who come to Christ may eventually learn that they are totally ruined by their sinful hearts, it is those who have visible wreckage that appreciate most what Jesus has done and can do for them. These are often adults whose lives have not gone the way they wanted, yet as they turn to Christ and take him seriously, amazing things happen. Have you grasped the reality of God in your life? Do you realize with the Psalmist that God is “acquainted with all (your) ways”?
The truth is that very few of us take God seriously enough and we pay in our foolish pride! C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “There must be a hearty reliance upon God, and a childlike confidence in him. I would recommend you either believe in God up to the hilt, or not at all. Believe this Book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing-place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith, and is not good for much. Oh, I pray you, do believe in God, and his omnipotence.” Since God is seriously committed to us, we need to be seriously committed to him.
Here are eight different ways to evaluate whether or not you take God seriously:
Part of taking God’s name seriously is to understand the significance of God’s name; the different ways we can misuse God’s name; and how to correctly use God’s name.
Part of taking God’s Word seriously is to understand: Christ’s view of the Scripture; how to properly interpret Scripture; and our great need to learn it, love it and live it!
To take God seriously means to take God’s Word seriously. If God speaks to us through his Holy Word and we ignore or reject all or much of what he has to say, then we are not taking God seriously. If we have a Bible but never read it or seek to apply it, we don’t take God seriously. If we treat God’s Word like a spiritual smorgasbord, picking out those portions that appeal to our taste and passing the others by, we are showing disrespect for God and his inspired Word.
The Psalmist said, “Your Word have I hid in my heart so that I might not sin against You.” When we learn, love and live God’s Word, we begin to develop basic biblical convictions.
We take God’s Wisdom seriously if we: develop a deep respect for the Lord; prioritize pursuing God’s wisdom; and develop a Christian worldview.
If we would become wise, God must be taken seriously. Why? Because the fear of or deep respect for the Lord (taking God seriously) is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10)! Right from the start of his communication to us, one message is clear: God must be taken seriously. While this might be obvious to some who are from a Christianized culture, to many others it is far from obvious.
What does it mean to take God seriously? To take God seriously means not just to assent to his greatness and then to smirk behind his back, as it were, but to buy into his purpose for us. To take God seriously means to do what he clearly tells us to do. To take God seriously means to orientate our faith towards him and what he reveals rather than away from him to other persons or things.
Two of the earliest lessons in taking God seriously came from major historical catastrophes that he instigated and which we could not turn deaf ears to. One was the flood, and another was the dispersion of languages at the tower of Babel. In the former, he showed his power and hatred of evil and injustice and cruelty. In the latter he showed we must take seriously his original purpose for us of spreading throughout the entire world. You might say that in the Babel incident the people had tried to collect together in defiance of his express original command of Genesis 1.
This communication from God might seem obvious to us, but we don’t learn it very easily. In fact, as Scripture records, it took God’s special people about 1500 years and the disaster of utter destruction of their nation, to learn this. So…what hope is there for the rest of us?
How is this concept relevant to us today? I’ll think about God when I’m older. Isn’t it enough to do my best? Can’t I do God’s will my way? What are some ways we don’t take God seriously?
Taking God seriously requires that we willingly submit to his authority. Sometimes we narrow taking God seriously down to the idea of authority and obedience. Recognizing God’s authority and obeying him is an important part of taking God seriously; how can we take him seriously as God if we don’t obey him! It seems that the people in Genesis had learned this. When Abraham challenged God, he referred to him as, “Judge of all the Earth” (Gen. 18:25).
Pagan thinkers have even accepted this. Human beings can discover God’s authority just by looking at Creation as Paul indicated in Romans 1:20: “Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made.”
But authority is not the only important facet of God; indeed, it might not be the most important. But it seems that some of these other facets such as humility and love are not what we would expect, so God had to reveal them to us himself and this was part of his long process of revelation. Unfortunately, much of the Christians’ idea of God’s authority comes not from Scripture but from Aristotle, with disastrous consequences since the Middle Ages in Europe.
Nonetheless, ultimate authority rests in God. He had and has the authority to destroy the world. He did so in the time of Noah when he saw that humankind had become so desperately wicked that (most of) it should be wiped out. Again, how is this relevant to us?
We should always seek to please, love and glorify God. How? By obeying him (John 14:21, 23). Don’t elevate your own ideas and morals too high; God’s ethics have priority over yours. “One with God is a majority.” Morality is not determined by a majority vote. It’s dangerous to rail against God’s authority though, he does welcome genuine questioning and honest doubts.
We take God’s world seriously if we: acknowledge God’s ownership; seek to be faithful stewards of God’s resources; and find our God-given purpose.
We take God seriously when we: accept who he really is; understand what he really did; and trust in the sufficiency of his death on our behalf.
We take God’s sovereignty seriously when we: understand and accept what sovereignty means; recognize our honest limitations; and understand what it means for God to be sovereign in obtaining and applying his salvation.
We take the Spirit seriously when we understand his role in: revelation and inspiration; regeneration and illumination; and spiritual formation.
We take God seriously when we: pursue excellence in our vocation; are fiscally responsible; and are good stewards of God’s financial resources.
John says in 1 John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Fearing God or taking God seriously is the necessary prerequisite for gaining God’s wisdom.
The question before us is: Do you take God’s: 1) Name, 2) Word, 3) Wisdom, 4) World, 5) Wealth, 6) Son, 7) Sovereignty and 8) Spirit seriously? If so, you will become wise…and Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
According to the writer of Ecclesiastes 12:13b-14, here is the conclusion of the matter: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”