“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” Acts 17:24-27
Some things are meant to capture our attention big time. Our senses are wired in certain ways to respond to stimuli around us whether it’s the aroma of cinnamon apple pie baking in the oven, the sound of great music played by an orchestra or the sight of a spectacular scenery while cruising. Traveling in New Zealand these past several days, I have definitely enjoyed numerous breathtaking landscapes that I never knew existed. Photographs don’t do them justice. (I try, anyhow.)
In his book, Awe, Paul David Tripp explains that the beauty of creation didn’t happen by chance. God intended for it to be a daily reminder of who He is. Sadly, we often miss the point as we get stuck on the created thing, all the while ignoring the much more glorious Creator behind it.
“We all carry the corrupted capacity to look around us and miss God. We enjoy the glories of creation and yet as we do, we fail to remember the Creator. God meant the earth to ignite and stimulate awe in us. As we encounter the physical world everyday, we should be blown away by the glory of God to which it points.” Paul David Tripp
I chose to begin with a scripture passage from Paul’s Areopagus sermon in Athens in Acts 17, because his audience then were also stuck with created things as their objects of worship. Paul knew that only the grace of God through faith in Christ could free them from wrong thinking and wrong living. Therefore his words pointed carefully to the supremacy of God who made the universe and appointed ALL things. Paul wanted them to know Him in whom all things live and move and have their being; that He is the God who needs nothing from us. His goal was to proclaim Him who is much greater, and the only One who is truly worthy of worship.
Similarly, only God’s grace through Christ can free us from our shortsightedness when we misplace our affections on things that are simply meant to direct our affections to Him. And here I can’t emphasize enough how knowledge alone is insufficient in creating this change in us. I know that I am an idol-maker. I have a strong tendency to love the gifts and forget the Giver. However, knowing this problem does not mean I can solve it. Only Christ has the power to take away the self-focus that is so natural in us, and replace it with love of Him. The good news is that He does, because He is faithful. It is a journey though, but one that is worth going through, as He daily redirects our path from awe of self to awe of Him.
These lofty mountains of New Zealand remind me that there is an all-powerful God who made them and that no matter how grand a thing, place or person may be, everything merely points to One whose glory has no rival. These fjords have echoed lessons learned in the past – that only a passion for One who is much greater can replace my passion for puny things on earth. Obedience happens only when the heart is made captive by awe, and awe is restored right where it should be – in God and God alone.
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:5-7