The Two Fears, Chris Poblete (CruciformPress, 2012)
In this book, Chris Poblete sets out to recover the proper fear of God, pushing back against the “God is my homeboy” crassness of our day and the mild, pushover God that understands we are doing our best. Something he says about a quarter of the way through this small book really resonated with me:
The very otherness of God, the true God-ness of God, means that he is completely separate from all that is not God. There is an infinite qualitative difference between him and us. “There is none besides you,” declared Samuel (1 Samuel 2:2). There is no higher reality or virtue to which God must conform. There is no higher standard, or scale, by which he must be measured. He is not holy because he keeps the Law; the Law is holy because it reveals God. God is the only absolute. Everything else derives from him (25).
This paragraph led me to reflect on our motives in glorifying God. So often we can get caught up in a legalistic approach to measure our own position before God. We want something attainable so we make “guidelines” that then turn into marks of a mature Christian. It may be what type of music we listen to, what fashions we follow, how we vote, what businesses we patronize, how we school our children, or even what sports teams we allow them to participate in. But in effect we have cheapened our God and our faith by setting man-made standards as a gauge of our spirituality. Out of fear of man and fear of our own reputations we fool ourselves into our own moral righteousness. Although we may appear to be more virtuous Christians than our “weaker brothers and sisters,” we have actually weakened our own faith by reducing it to something we can manage. Jesus turned water into wine, but we want to turn the wine into grape juice.
Take modesty for example. There is no skirt-length that makes me into a modest person. Not wanting to lead a brother into sin doesn’t even define my modesty. It is still a horizontal, comparative measurement. Understanding that I am created in the image of God, and wanting to properly reflect that image is the beginning of my modesty. Wanting to glorify God and enjoy him with every part of my being is the proper motivation for modesty. Knowing that I am a sinner who has been redeemed by his beloved son renews the way that I think about what modesty “looks like.” The outward appearance, how I dress, reflects the story of a sinner who needs to be covered with the beauty of Christ’s righteousness.
I love Poblete’s line that God is not holy because he keeps the law. The law didn’t exist before God. The law reveals God. It points us to holiness. Without Christ, the law condemned me. I could not fulfill it, and it could not save me. I was utterly lost. But in Christ, I am made holy. In faith, I depend upon the power of his Holy Spirit to lead me into right living as I am in his Word. Biblical decision making is difficult, and I surely want to walk in obedience. Thankfully God, the highest standard, the wholly “Other,” has bridged the immeasurable gap between us with his very Son Jesus Christ. When I think of how God condescended in humiliation for the salvation of his people, I am humbled myself. Poblete teaches that “to fear something is to give credence to its power over you.” This is very helpful. My God is omnipotent! And, the author adds, “if you fear God, your heart will quake at the smallest glimpse of his majesty.”