My cell phone recently died. After some buttons and the ear speaker stopped showing up for work, the device decided to declare software error and tap out for good. It wasn’t a big deal. It’s not the first time I’ve had a phone die on me. But this time, I got the message more quickly.
I’ve noticed something over the last few years: when my phone dies, it’s usually a sign that God’s trying to get my attention. One of the last times this happened, for example, I got ideas and inspiration to write a book (definitely a work in progress). It’s pretty cool, actually. God removes my primary source of distraction and frees me up to spend time with him, to really listen and focus as I know I should.
This time, I was in the process of trying to contact a friend to get some advice about some questions I was having and some issues I was working through. My phone wasn’t working correctly, and, when I tried to restart it, it never came back. It just gave me an error message with no way to fix it. In that moment, I got the message almost as clearly as if God had texted it: I wasn’t going to the Spirit of Truth for wisdom, or the Great Physician for healing, or the Savior for salvation. I was bypassing my Creator when I was having software issues of my own (definitely hadn’t made that connection until just now [also, spiritual connection vs. technological connection; loving the irony]).
So I spent some time in prayer. I got alone in my room and opened God’s Word and just focused. In about an hour, I had a new sense of peace and perspective. I really don’t know why I don’t trust God enough to live all of my life for him. I’m not sure why I worry and doubt and fret, or why I seek counsel from earthly voices, wise though they be, when I have direct access to God.
I think I began to get the answer to those questions the next day as I spent time with him.
I was reading through John 10, and something stuck out to me, something big. Granted, there are many things in that chapter that stand out, but one in particular struck me as I read it. I’ll give you the specific verses. See if you see what I see.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
Did you see it? Here, Jesus says that he has authority to lay down his life, that no one takes it from him. That’s huge! That means that he allowed himself to be killed. He knew what he was doing when he walked that road. His death was intentional. That’s big, but it’s not all. He then says that he has authority to take up his life again. He, though dead, could (and did) take up his life again on his own authority. He let himself be killed, and then he decided to not be dead anymore. I’m not sure there are words to describe that level of awesome. It’s beyond imagination. That should cause us to see Jesus differently. That should cause us to stand in awe of this man, from whom the wind and the waves take orders.
And herein lies my realization: I have a problem with fearing the LORD. To put the issue bluntly, I’m pretty sure I don’t actually do it. It sounds horrible, but I really don’t think I have a true reverence for the God of the universe, and that’s a big problem. My focus and my obedience and my faithfulness and my holiness are dependent on my fear of the LORD being primary. As Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7). I am changed by a right understanding of God. In fact, Jesus said that eternal life is not necessarily measured in length of years but by a relationship with God (see John 17:3). If I desire to honor Christ, I must follow the example of Paul and make my aim to simply know him (see Philippians 3:7-14). I must make his kingdom and righteousness my aim, trusting him to provide (Matthew 6:33). I must submit myself to him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). I must lay aside every weight and sin that holds me back (Hebrews 12:1-2). And I think that the fear of the Lord, as Proverbs says it, is the starting place and the major factor in that process of sanctification.
So my challenge for myself and for all of us who seek to know him is simply this: learn to fear the Lord. Don’t be content with surface level knowledge about God, but learn to revere the sovereign, holy LORD of all creation. Begin to focus on the God of Exodus 19, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 37, and Revelation 4. Let the God of Job 26, of all of Job (indeed, of all of Scripture), impact your life. I pray that God would reveal himself more to us, and that we would learn to leave our distractions for the pursuit of his glory. He alone is worthy.
Behold the awesome power of the Christ.
Death cannot dictate where or when he goes.
No foreign threat, no wicked will, no heist,
Is able unto doom to him expose.
For from the Father from whose word all is,
He hath this charge, this holy, sov’reign right:
Authority to end his life is his,
And pow’r to take it back by his own might.
No creature claims dominion over Thee.
You are the Lord of all eternally.
No power but his own
No other, rival throne
He is the Lord of light
He is not quenched by night
This Son is sov’reign King
This Gospel we do sing
In strength, he overcame
In him, we’ll do the same
We humbly bend the knee
We stand absolved and free