When the Gospel Becomes Too Familiar

I remember when I moved to Wisconsin, one of the benefits I gained was a beautiful drive to my workplace. When I lived in Oregon, I was surrounded by exquisite outdoors, but my commute to work involved driving to a park-and-ride and then taking a 45-minute transit train to the heart of Portland. 

Not exactly breathtaking.

But my new commute involved a 15-minute drive through some back roads with trees on either side. During the fall the colors were amazing, and during the winter the snow draping the trees was worth slowing down and just gazing.

The problem was that, over time, I began to notice the drive less and less. And it was not too long that thoughts of the day occupied my mind and soon the drive became autopilot. I no longer saw the allure of the drive. It just became…familiar. And in becoming familiar, it no longer captured my gaze.

When my private life is not my public life

I recently read Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp. Its essence is that life goes bad quickly when we fail to preach the same gospel to ourselves that we minister to others. We begin to live a private life that is very different from the life we have out in public. 

I read God’s word and it becomes academic and my hard heart remains unchanged.

I disciple others and lose the amazement that Jesus chose me to be His disciple.

I pray merely to “get” and lose my joy that God wants to relate to me to experience His fullness.

If you want to describe this issue in one sentence, I think it can be summarized quite succinctly:

I have lost my awe of God.

And I lose my awe of God when He becomes familiar or common to me and my life. As Tripp aptly says, we have gospel amnesia.

Does my view of God look like Psalm 145?

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 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. (vs 1-7)

Sadly, I have to admit that many times it does not. Like my commute to work that was once beautiful and captured my attention, its every day encounter has now dulled my affections.

And there are days when I do not notice God like I once used to. And this has perilous consequences for my life because a lack of awe will overflow into every area of my life. Compartmentalizing God is just another lie that I have bought.

What does awe of God look like functionally? Tripp says,

Awe of God should in some way motivate everything I do and say. Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do and parent my children in the manner I do. It should be the reason I function the way I do at my job or handle my finances the way I do. It should structure the way I think about possessions, positions, and power. Awe of God should shape and motivate my relationship with my extended family and neighbors. Awe of God should give direction to the way I live as a citizen of the wider community. It should form the way I think about myself and my expectations of others. Awe of God should lift me out of my darkest moments of discouragement and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations. Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin, while it makes me more patient with and tender toward the weakness of others. It should give me courage I would find no other way, and wisdom to know when I am out of my league. Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence.

Wow. There is much at stake.

Recapturing my awe of God

If you find yourself having lost your awe of God, let me offer you two responses that are helping me:

  1. Run quickly to your Father and receive the gift of repentance. Confess your boredom. The issue is not that His “material” needs a refresh.
  2. Give thanks for Jesus, who offers His grace even during times when it is not as valuable as it ought to be.

Here are four heart postures I am now praying for. These come from John Piper’s book When I Don’t Desire God, or what he refers to as his IOUS.

  1. Ask God to incline my heart to Him and to His word (Psalm 119:36).
  2. Ask God to open my eyes so that I see what is really in His word and not my own ideas (Psalm 119:18).
  3. Ask God to unite all of my heart to Him. Because truthfully, parts of my heart want His ruling and other parts do not (Psalm 86:11).
  4. Ask God that my heart would be completely satisfied in Him and not with the world (Psalm 90:14).

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