After my last blog post in which I addressed the issue of believers abandoning going to church on a Sunday in preference for watching a football match, I tossed and turned most of the night. I kept asking myself how believers could do this. I could not understand how even pastors are now joining in this revelry with a clear conscience. I mean, how?
I was sure that the football craze that had engulfed this generation is only a symptom of a greater disease. But what was that disease? That is the question I was wrestling with. By the time the sun rose, I think that I had an answer. The best way to phrase it is by the title of this blog post: We have lost the sense of God. I know that this sounds like an outlandish accusation but that is because we are comparing ourselves with ourselves. Hear me out.
There is an experiential knowledge of God that profoundly changes a person from the inside out. God is known in the soul in such an overwhelming way that it affects a person’s entire perception of life. It is perhaps what the hymn writer meant when he wrote, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The things of this earth growing strangely dim.
A Christian can never rise higher than his experience of God. God is infinitely profound. As one hymn writer has written, he is an immeasurable sea without a shore, a blazing sun without a sphere. When engulfed in his presence, whom thousand and tens of thousands of angels worship day and night, the soul can only lie in the dust in adoring wonder. This profound knowledge brings eternity to bear on the soul of a believer so that everything in his life is judged from eternity’s perspective. How one spends his time and money, how one enjoys his recreation, how one relates to believers and unbelievers, how one handles his work—all these are subjected to eternity. The great Day of Judgment is never far from mind.
There is, therefore, a godly gravity upon the brow of such a believer. Perhaps it would be better to call it a solemn dignity. You cannot miss it when you are in the presence of such a person. You sense that there is a depth of spiritual experience that is not disturbed by what often excites the worldly mind. It is the difference between the stillness of a deep river and the noisy current of a shallow stream. This cannot be manufactured overnight. It comes from regular close dealings with God. The sense of God leaves an indelible mark upon the soul.
In 1875, Fanny J Crosby wrote these words in her hymn (notice the chorus in italics),
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend
When I kneel in prayer and with Thee my God
I commune as friend with friend
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou hast died
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To Thy precious bleeding side
Deep thinking and meditating upon the cross of Christ is what produces spiritual giants. To begin with, you are melted to tears when you have drunk in how your God has quenched your hell by taking your place on the cruel cross. Such love is too overwhelming. You want to give to God everything you have in response. You do not want to hold anything back. There is a peace and a joy that radiates in your soul that the people of this world know nothing of. Theirs is the cracklings of twigs in the fire. You feel sorry for them rather than join in their empty mirth. Your joy defies disease, disaster and death. As John Newton wrote in 1779,
Saviour, since of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.
I am sorry to say that as I mingle with the younger generation today, I cannot help feeling that this culture of deep meditation on God has been largely lost. There is too much noise. Noise from the television, noise from the radio, noise from the internet, noise from the smartphone, noise from the computer, noise from the sports stadium—noise, noise, noise. The injunction of Scripture seems to be largely missing that says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). Our young people always want to be with the bawling crowds and where the music is loudest. The result has been a tragic loss of this weighty sense of the living and majestic God.
Even when it comes to church…there is very little pausing for a moment of silence to prepare the soul to meet with the living God. You have a band that is already playing as people chat. The worship leader starts with jokes to get the atmosphere exciting. The songs are painfully repetitious of next to nothing—“God brought me from here and has taken me there,” over and over again! The preaching is also deliberately calculated to bring people back next week rather than to bring them face to face with the living God. Hence the preacher behaves more like a superstar than a prophet from God. Can such gimmicks surely give us a sense of God?
I recall my own formative days that were spent mostly in the pew than in the pulpit. There were many Sundays when all I wanted was to shut out the world after worship at church and close myself up with the God. Glorious hymns had extolled the immensities of sovereign grace. I had heard God’s voice, especially through the faithful exposition of his word. I had been moved to the very depth of my being. I had seen the heinous ugliness of sin and the magnificent beauty of my Saviour. The powers of the coming age had overwhelmed me. I had been transported, as it were, into the third heavens and back. I felt as if I would burst at the seams if I did not go away from everyone to worship and pour my heart out to God—to the living God. Tell me. Please tell me. How can a person experience this and then shoot off to the stadium and join the rowdy crowd shouting at people chasing a ball? I mean, how?
O for a generation of young people who will once again have the atmosphere of eternity upon their souls. O for a band of young adults who will have a profound sense of God that will make them to cry as Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” O for authentic biblical Christianity to once again permeate our churches. When God raises up such a generation, we will rest assured that the future of the church militant is in good hands, for the people who know their God will do exploits for him. Until then we should weep in prayer and refuse to be comforted. We have lost the sense of God!