Taking God Seriously

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.”
Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

 

Introduction

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:

  1. Do not confuse it with other beliefs/loyalties/practices or mingle them together indiscriminately or pretend they are alike, or of equal merit, or mutually compatible if they are not.
  2. Make high demands of those admitted to the church that promulgates the faith and do not include or allow to continue within it those who are not fully committed to it.
  3. Do not consent to, encourage, or indulge any violations of its standards of belief or behavior by its professed adherents.
  4. Do not keep silent about it, apologize for it, or let it be treated as though it made no difference or should make no difference, in their behavior or in their relationships with others.
(Questions taken from Why Conservative Churches are Growing, by Dean M. Kelly)

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.

Do you take God seriously?

Here are eight different ways to evaluate whether or not you take God seriously:

Taking God’s name 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.

a) The significance of God’s name: God’s name is a reflection of his reputation, character and authority. In Exodus 20:7, God commands that we should not misuse or take God’s name in vain. When we misuse God’s name, it’s no little deal, it’s a big deal. In using God’s name flippantly we are defaming God’s reputation, character and authority.
b) Ways we can misuse God’s name: We can misuse God’s name to insult, indulge, intimidate, impress or impulsively – like an exclamation mark or as a filler in conversation. One of the dangers of misusing God’s name is that it is robbed of its true and God-intended meaning.
c) How to correctly use God’s name: we need to reverence God’s name continually, to represent his name clearly, and to rely upon his name completely. His name represents him!

II. Taking God’s Word seriously doesn’t always mean taking the Bible literally.

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.

a) Christ’s view of the Scripture: It’s worth noting that Jesus had the utmost regard for Scripture. In fact, one could not envision having a higher view of Scripture. As far as Jesus was concerned, when the Old Testament spoke, God spoke. The Bible is fully inspired having full divine authority.
b) How to properly interpret Scripture: Scripture doesn’t mean whatever we want it to mean or whatever we think it means. Its meaning is determined by what God intended it to mean when he inspired men to write it in a particular language, in a particular culture and at a particular time in history. This is known as the grammatical, historical, cultural interpretation of Scripture. The objective hermeneutics (science of interpretation) is to discern the author’s original intent.
c) God’s Word: learn it, love it and live it: There are three things we do when it comes to the Word:
  1. Learn It. We can’t change until we know it: hear, read, study, learn, memorize, meditate on it.
  2. Love It. We’ve got to begin to embrace the Word and let it embrace us. Let’s esteem the Word!
  3. Live It. Let the Word that comes into our hearts, go out through your hands – share it with others.

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.

III. Taking God’s wisdom seriously

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?

  1. Treating worship as boring, optional or a waste of time.
  2. Treating worship as entertainment, a good time and ignoring his command to act justly.
  3. Treating worship as the main thing God wants from us and ignoring his commandments.
  4. Treating God to an hour on Sunday, while ignoring his relevance to the rest of the week.
  5. Taking some parts of the Bible seriously while completely overlooking other parts.

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.

IV. Taking God’s world seriously

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.

a) We need to acknowledge God’s ownership: 1 Corinthians 10:26 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. We are only temporary trustees of some of God’s assets while we are here on earth. The proof? Have you ever seen a U-Haul pulled behind a hearse? You can’t take it with you. We brought nothing into this world and we can’t take anything out of this world (1 Tim. 6:7).
b) We need to seek to be faithful stewards of all the resources that God has entrusted to us: 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” First Corinthians 4:2 says that it is required of a steward that he be found faithful in the management of God’s resources.
c) We need to find our God-given purpose in life: Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Second Corinthians 5:15 says, [Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

V. Taking God’s son seriously

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.

a) We need to accept Jesus’ true identity – the incarnate, sinless Son of God – our Savior and Lord. In Colossians 2:9-10, Paul says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
b) We need to grasp what he did when he died on the Cross for our sins. In Romans 5:8 Paul says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” On the cross, God not only showed his love for the sinner but he also showed his hatred of sin. Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be regenerated by him and reconciled with him.
c) We need to trust in the sufficiency of his atoning death on our behalf. Christ’s death was of sufficient worth or merit to enable God to forgive our sins so we could spend eternity with him. “Nothing to Christ’s cross we bring, simply to Christ’s cross we cling. O Lamb of God, I come!”

VI. Taking God sovereignty seriously

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.

a) We need to understand and accept God’s sovereignty: when we say God is sovereign we mean that God has all things under control. What is required in order for God to be sovereign? God must be all powerful (omnipotent), all presence (omnipresent) and all knowing (omniscient).
b) We need to recognize our honest limitations, especially with reference to our salvation. Look at the way Paul describes what we are like before Christ saved us. Ephesians 2:1-3, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
c) Accept God’s sovereignty in salvation. If God is not sovereign over all, he is not sovereign at all. What does it mean for God to be sovereign in salvation? It means that when it comes to salvation, he has the final say. In John 6:44 and 65, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and… no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Jonah 2:9b says it best, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” We cannot save ourselves!

VII. Taking God’s Spirit seriously

We take the Spirit seriously when we understand his role in: revelation and inspiration; regeneration and illumination; and spiritual formation.

a) Revelation and inspiration – 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
b) Regeneration and illumination: In regeneration: (cf. also 1 Cor. 2:12-14) John 3:3: “No one can see…. the kingdom of God unless he is born again [regenerated].” John 3:5: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of… the Spirit.
c) Sanctification or spiritual formation: Simply put, only the Holy Spirit can make us holy. Second Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

VIII. Taking God’s wealth seriously

We take God seriously when we: pursue excellence in our vocation; are fiscally responsible; and are good stewards of God’s financial resources.

a) Pursue excellence in our vocation – (Col. 3:23; 1 Cor. 10:31) Paul clearly teaches that whatever we do we should do wholeheartedly for God’s glory. This requires that we do our best because his reputation is at stake in our lives. We should walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:2).
b) Become financially responsible – Paul says in Romans 13:7-8: “Give everyone what you owe him: …Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another….” We are good stewards if we make money ethically and spend it wisely.
c) Good stewards of our financial resources – We take God seriously when we are committed to storing up treasure in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:19-21(. We store up treasure in heaven when we do God’s will, God’s way for God’s glory. God’s way involves being a generous and cheerful giver: 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

After all is said and done, what is the bottom line?

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.”

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