A Place for Fear in Worship
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ―C.S. Lewis – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
This is probably one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis! It makes me think deeply about God and His nature. There is so much truth contained in this little quote, and for me it paints a beautiful picture. All goodness, and all glory! Susan had a picture of what Aslan would be like…an Aslan that she would feel safe and comfortable with.
The truth is that all of us are probably guilty when it comes to making God into our own image. We all have a natural disposition when it comes to viewing God. We, as fallen people, can tend to believe He is exactly what we think we need, or want Him to be. Whatever our bent, we can be very good at making a god that suits us, and justifies our natural inclinations rather than letting the truth of who God is inform our lives and our worship.
One thing that has struck me lately in scripture, is how many times men and women are told not to be afraid, after they have experienced the glory of God in some way. Throughout Scripture, when humans come into contact with God’s immense glory, their first response is to be afraid and or to fall in worship. Whether it is the voice of God from the mountain, a messenger of the Lord to men like Joshua and Gideon, shepherds seeing hosts of angels, or disciples seeing Christ transfigured and hearing the voice of God. In every case, the people involved needed to be told not to be afraid and this fear led them to humble worship and holy awe.
One of my favorite occurrences of this is in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10). The women go to the tomb and there is a violent earthquake because an angel of the Lord “comes down” from heaven! Wow! Picture that! The guards are so afraid, they fall down as if dead! It is impossible for us to even comprehend the sheer terror and glory in this scene. Then the angel turns to the women, and immediately tells them not to be afraid. “Jesus is not here, he has risen.” As they turn to leave the tomb, suddenly Jesus appears and greets them!
What’s fascinating is that the women’s first response upon seeing the resurrected Christ, is not to leap into His arms in joy, or to gush all over Him. They knew Jesus well and had spent much time with Him! Yet they don’t approach him with a casual familiarity. They are face down, clutching his feet in worship! When confronted with heaven’s glory they are terrified and it leads to pure worship!
Sometimes I wonder if there is a certain humility we are lacking in many of our worship services. Is it possible that we can get a little too comfortable and familiar with it all? Could it be that we are worshipping a god we have created? A god who is safe for our sin nature? I worry that in many of our churches we gather yet fail to see or feel the weight of it all. I worry that at times we see Jesus as our “bro” or a “dispenser” of love and grace while failing to see His glory and majesty! Should we be afraid of God? No, but we are to fear Him. There is a difference. Scripture tells us that we are to approach the throne boldly! But as we come boldly, could it be that we are coming proudly or casually? There is nothing casual about our God and we have to see His goodness in light of His glory. This produces true humility and true adoration in worship. I am not saying that we need to see God as a harsh dictator. That would be the opposite ditch on the side of the road.
We cannot view God’s love outside of viewing His glory, and we cannot only regard His glory outside of seeing His love. We need to maintain the balance that brings true humility in worship. A balance that lets us feel our smallness. When we view what we have been given by Christ, in light of His immense glory, it produces genuine worship in Spirit and in truth. Our God is not contained in our comfy boxes and we belong, like the women at the tomb, humbly worshiping at His feet. He loves us more than we can grasp and He is good beyond measure! When you consider such lavishness from such glory, directed towards such undeserving people, it is staggeringly humbling and all that is left to do is to fall and worship. As we view God, let’s not get comfortable. Let’s be humbled and awed that this immensely holy God, full of glory, saw fit to call us His own and to find us with His grace. Let’s not be afraid, but pray that the realization of who He is, would drive us to worship!
Kurt Felsman is a Canadian worship leader, songwriter and singer who currently lives in Valparaiso, IN, with his wife Lyndsye, and their three boys. Kurt currently leads worship at Calvary Church in Valparaiso and just released his first solo worship project in December of 2015 entitled Majesty and Mystery.