Humility, Accountability & Awe
By Dave Hunt
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body…whether…good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
I am fast approaching the allotted “threescore years and ten” (Ps 90:10). The reality of facing God and Christ, either through the Rapture or death, confronts me with increasing impact. Often, outdoors at night, looking up at the stars and contemplating the vastness of the universe, I confess to the Lord that the thought of facing Him beyond the grave strikes fear into my heart. This fleeting life, which is “even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14), will very soon have passed entirely into history with no hope of changing it. The staggering reality of eternity will encompass me.
It is not that I doubt my salvation. I have never had the slightest question about that since the night some 55 years ago when I received Christ into my heart as my Savior and Lord. There is no fear of hell or judgment, for I believe His Word that He has paid the penalty for my sins and has given me eternal life as a free gift of His unmerited grace. I have the wonderful and absolute assurance that I will “never perish” (Jn 10:28)! What I fear is the awesomeness of God himself. Who can stand in His presence!
We are such frail creatures, so pitifully blind to God’s truth, so slow to learn His will and to understand His Word and ways. We have nothing of which to boast or in which to take comfort except for His grace and love. Yet we so easily forget that we are here for only a fleeting moment; we act as though this life were all there is and that it will never end. What could be greater folly!
As such thoughts overwhelm us we discover that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10). We realize at last that it is too late to play church or any other spiritual games. Gone is any interest in trying to impress anyone on this earth, whether that person be a leader of great influence, or just an ordinary believer. What people think or say about us is no longer of any concern.
Yes, we must be open to valid criticism and correction that is factual and supported by God’s Word—not in order to please men, but God alone. We must be careful not to be defensive of our own reputations. All that matters is God’s will and glory, and what God and Christ will pronounce upon one’s life in that rapidly oncoming moment of ultimate truth. This fact, together with a constant awareness of God’s love and care, provide the motivation and direction for the way in which we must use our fast diminishing moments on this earth.
We neither seek the praise of men nor fear their rebuke. It is the Lord only whom we serve, seeking to follow His Word and to please Him alone. Yes, we must be the “servants of all” (Mk 10:44; 2 Tim 2:24; Heb 3:5, etc.), but we do it “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pt 2:13), not “as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).
To the extent that we serve men for the rewards they offer, God is not real to us. What folly to barter away an eternal reward in exchange for anything this brief life and its temporary bankrupt tenants can offer! Even the Latin poet Juvenal, from a humanistic standpoint, wrote, “Consider it the greatest of crimes to prefer survival to honor and, out of love of physical life, to lose the very reason for living.”
Christ rebuked the Pharisees with these words: “How can ye believe [be men of faith], which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (Jn 5:44). Why can’t we receive honor both from men and God? For a number of reasons. Christ said it is impossible “to serve two masters,” especially “God and mammon [riches; i.e., worldly reward]” (Mat 6:24). Those who attempt to do so find their hearts torn and consciences dulled as the things of this life and opinions of men prove to be more real to us than is God himself.
Tragically, we can be blind to the truth about our real motives because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). What Christian has not experienced praying in public and wondering within himself whether those listening realize what a great prayer is being offered! Who has not done something virtuous, kind and seemingly selfless for the good of others and at the same time hoped that such service was noticed and admired by men? Such folly is only possible because men and their opinions loom larger than God.
If God were real to us, the opinions of men, either for or against us, and the honor or dishonor they may bestow would shrink into nothingness in comparison to God’s greatness. And as God becomes real we inevitably fear Him. This is not the fear of one who is terrorized. It is a fear out of respect, the reverent awe which is becoming of us as creatures in the presence of our Creator, no matter how confident we are of His love and the acceptance we have in Christ. And is not this sense of awe obviously lacking among those who gather in most churches? Do we not often seem to be more aware of one another than of God?
We receive so many letters from Christians who are having a difficult time finding a church where the Lord is really worshiped in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24) and His Word is honored. Of course, part of the fault could lie with those who can’t find a “suitable fellowship.” However, the fact that this same cry is so often heard wherever one goes indicates that there must be some truth in it. Who would dare to say that Christians in general and most churches are living up to the standard set forth in the New Testament? Yet we claim to study and know the New Testament, and pastors and teachers preach from it. How many of us have lost that glow of excitement and fervent love of Christ which characterized us when we were first saved? What went wrong?
One could point to a variety of causes. How many Christians spend as much time in prayer and Bible study as they do watching television? Has not television brought the world’s values into our homes? Christians are supposed to be in the world but not of the world. If we took an honest look at ourselves, would we perhaps see that many of us have become of the world to an extent that would startle us if our eyes were opened to discern it? Would the Rapture, if it suddenly occurred, interrupt plans and ambitions that have lowered our affection from the heavenly to the earthly?
Is it possible that somehow those of us who claim to be Christians have lost the sense of the awesomeness of God’s person and presence? Could it be that church has become something we do with, and even for, one another rather than for God alone, a pattern of going together through the same routine each week which involves motions acceptable to man rather than the worship of God? Do we act as though we are in the presence of God himself, the infinitely powerful and holy and all-knowing Creator of the universe who holds our breath in His hand; or do we act as though we are interacting with and attempting to impress and please one another?
So what do we do? Try to “feel” the presence of God or “visualize” Him or Christ? The destructiveness of the emotionalism and occultism resulting from such techniques has been dealt with in depth both in my books and this newsletter so will not be repeated here. Then how does God become real to us? Do we step out into nature and contemplate the wonders of His universe? That can be a legitimate part of bowing in wonder before God, which many psalms present to us (Ps 8:3; 19:1; 104:24, etc.)—but there is more. Without obeying His Word which reveals His character and will, we would be deceived. Therein lies another problem plaguing the church: lack of discernment and accountability to God’s Word.
How easily one may be swayed emotionally in spite of evidence was demonstrated recently when a dozen evangelical leaders, after breakfast in Washington with the President, came away convinced that Clinton is a “sincere Christian.” Yet no one could have more thoroughly demonstrated his opposition to the gospel than has Clinton in his national promotion of the most flagrant immorality. Having appointed about two dozen gays or lesbians and numerous other godless people to top posts, Clinton has surrounded himself with aides who defy God. Actions speak louder than words. His own immorality is cause for Christians to distance themselves from him as a professing Christian. Even eating with Clinton was disobedience to God’s Word (1 Cor 5:9-11). If we are truly in awe of God we will take Him and His Word seriously, no matter the consequences.
Only the fear of the Lord will deliver us from the fear of man and from the snare of unbiblical alliances. One often hears the naive expression, especially in justifying the new ecumenical acceptance of Roman Catholics as Christians, “I embrace all those as brethren who ‘love Jesus’ and ‘name the name of Christ.'” Yet many cultists profess to love Jesus and almost all “name the name of Christ.” One must discern what is meant by such words.
Any heresy can be made to sound biblical (and even evangelical). Those who are not aware of or are too “loving” to discern its true nature are thereby deceived. For example, consider the following message placed in newspapers last Easter by the Mormon Church:
During the Easter season we again rejoice with all of Christendom, and gratefully commemorate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…. At this sacred season we solemnly testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We know that He lives! We know that because He lives, we too shall live again!
How biblical it sounds! Yet terms such as “Savior” and “Redeemer” have an entirely different meaning in Mormonism from the evangelical understanding—and that fact is deliberately hidden. “Eternal life,” which the Bible says is by a free gift of God’s grace, is, for the Mormon, “exaltation to godhood” and comes by works and ritual. Nor are the Mormon “God” and “Jesus” at all Christian. The “God” of Mormonism was once a sinful man who was redeemed by another Jesus Christ who died on the distant planet where this “God-in-the-making” lived. He eventually became a full-blown “God,” like untold numbers of others before him. The Jesus of Mormonism (only one of trillions on other planets) was Lucifer’s half-brother in a spirit preexistence. He was not God but came to this earth to get a body in order to become a “God.” The heresy goes on and on. Obviously, this Mormon Easter ad was deceitfully designed to seem both Christian and evangelical.
Roman Catholicism is equally deceptive. Pope John Paul II told the youth gathered in Denver last August, “At this stage of history, the liberating Gospel of life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation! Do not be afraid to go out into the streets and into public places like the first apostles who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to be proud of the Gospel. It is time to preach it from the rooftops.”
Any evangelical would be stirred by such words to join Catholics in evangelizing the world. But what the Pope means by the gospel, as we have previously documented, is as far from the Bible as hell is from heaven. The Catholic gospel calls people to Mother Church, to Mary, to the sacraments, good works, purgatory and indulgences. The Church is “the minister of salvation.” Only through her can man be reconciled to God (Mormons claim the same for their church) rather than through a personal relationship with God through Christ alone. But Catholic apologists cover up such heresies.
The recent agreement between evangelicals and Catholics was only the latest step in an ecumenism which has long been in progress. As far back as 1978 the Dallas Morning News (August 19) quoted W. A. Criswell (former head of the Southern Baptist Convention) as saying, “I don’t know anyone more dedicated to the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity than the Catholics.” Even earlier, Billy Graham had said, “I’ve found that my beliefs are essentially the same as those of orthodox Roman Catholics.” The long lives of service to the Lord and winning thousands to Christ of both Graham and Criswell show that neither would knowingly compromise the gospel. They, like so many other evangelical leaders, have been deceived by half-truths. Out of concern for souls we must expose such deception.
If God is real to us, so must be His Word. Recognizing our accountability to Him, that one day very soon we must stand before Him, makes us careful to follow His Word in all we say and do. Knowing that we are nothing brings the humility that becomes us as frail creatures of dust. Understanding our duty to contend earnestly for the faith committed to us as His saints (Jude 3) brings boldness and unflinching purpose of heart. Humility, accountability and awe at God’s greatness: these remove all arrogance in our contending for the faith. We remember Paul’s words: “[I]f a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal 6:1). TBC