Awe, Not Ecstasy

(This is a portion of my sermon introduction from Sunday, April 6.)

April 15, 2014


For the last month or so, whenever I have scanned through the headlines, a particular group of people have been catching my attention, skydivers.

It started when I noticed a story about a sixteen year old.  Her dad bought this “experience” for her birthday.  This was her first jump.  She jumped out of the plane moments after her dad did.  But, her shoot didn’t open.  Thirty-five hundred feet later she crashed into the ground and lived.  The doctors are expecting her to make a full recovery.

But just a few days ago, a woman with over 1500 jumps under her belt, died when her parachute didn’t open.  In the aftermath, another woman, who jumped with her said, “Yeah, it’s sad, but it also happens … It just happens.”

About two weeks ago, I watched a video on YouTube of a man jumping off of the Freedom Tower in New York City.  After about ten seconds he pulled his parachute and landed safely in the middle of the street.

Even though the deaths per jump ratio is incredibly low, I was still curious about the motivation.  One man summarized most of the comments that I found.  He said, “For me, it’s an incredible buzz as I step off the platform; it’s very cleansing; it’s very exciting; and it’s highly addictive.”

Despite the rush, he says it’s an overall calming experience.

“I never think about emails I should write home, and people I haven’t called, and tasks around the house I haven’t done,” he said. “It gives you a moment of absolute clarity where you’re just admiring the view and concentrating on the next six seconds.”

I wonder how many churches in America have this same type of attitude as they plan their worship services.  Of course, instead of trying to produce “clarity” for six seconds, the aim is probably sixty minutes.

I wonder how many people go to church on Sunday mornings looking for “clarity?”

When you come to corporate worship, what are you looking for?

Excitement?  or Amazement?  Ecstasy or Awe?

I suppose at this point I should stop and walk you through your own expectations for church.  But I am going to leave you to do that at lunch time, as you prepare for evening worship!

What I want you to recognize is that it makes a difference.  What you look for in a worship service will determine where and whom you will worship. 

If you are looking for excitement in a worship service, if you are looking for a service that will get you up and will make you have a good time and will cause you to leave that place with good feelings, then the god you are going to worship is the god that is all about pleasing you!

But, if you are looking to enter into the worship of the God who created the world out of nothing, and, if you are looking to enter into the worship of a God who demands and deserves worship because He is holy, just, perfect, and lovely, in such a service, your response will not be excitement, but awe.

In such a service you will become reminded of or become aware of the greatness of your sin and rebellion, but you will also become aware of or be reminded of the greatness of the grace and mercy found in the blood of Christ.  And you will be filled with awe that such a mighty God would offer Himself as the Substitute under His judgment so that you can rightly and boldly enter into His presence to worship Him.

Now where do we learn of this great work of God?  Where do we learn of the King of the Universe that offers himself on the altar in order to purchase a people for himself?  There is but one place.  The Word of God.

In March of 2007 Christianity Today an article was written by an anonymous professor called, “My Conversation with God.”  The writer had always heard about other people “hearing God speak,” only this time it supposedly happened to Him.  Of course, I don’t buy it, but as I was reading comments about it, I came across this one.

The comment reads, “I really believe that the Lord is going to be moving in new and unique ways among all Christians, particularly among leaders and Pastors. Watch for healing and spiritual gifts to informally break out in churches and places where they have never been recognized before. This is like a small first wave. Look for more to come later.”

Do you know what this comment is about?  Bring on the excitement!  Bring on the hoopla!  They claim God still speaks today apart from the Word, so go practice Yoga, or contemplative prayer, or any number of other eastern mystical practices, and your faith will become exciting.  Add a lightshow, put on some sort of a rock-concert every Sunday, and get people in a frenzy over God, and Christianity will take back the culture.

But, let me tell you, the pursuit of the exciting is the world’s way of doing business.  And when the world has its way, the ordinary ways of God get pushed down and trampled on by society.

But, these two parables and the fulfilled prophecy in our text today (Matthew 13:31-35) reveal to us that the kingdom of heaven does not grow by the world’s means.  The kingdom of heaven does not grow by the pursuit of excitement, but it grows as the ordinary means of grace are made use of by God’s people.

As God’s people are filled with awe at the revelation of the Living Word –Jesus Christ- in the Written Word- the Bible- that’s when the kingdom of heaven expands and grows.

I had a brief conversation with a friend this week, and I was describing to him the difference between Awe and Ecstasy.  I was describing to him how awe bubbles up within us as we consider what someone else has done or is doing.   Ecstasy erupts in us when something amazingly good happen to us.

So he said something like, “It’s kind of like the difference between standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and riding a zip line down to the bottom.”  What a great picture.

Awe tends to be an attitude of amazement focused on someone or something besides ourselves.  Whereas, ecstasy tends to be an emotion of excitement focused on ourselves.

So, in our text today [Matthew 13:31-35], what we have are 3 things that are designed to stir up awe within us over the kingdom of heaven, and specifically the King of heaven, instead of creating excitement and ecstasy over “what is going on in my life.”

Awe, not ecstasy is the product of revealed truth.  Are you in awe because of what God has revealed of Himself?

Hebrews 12:28, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

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