HomeFaithDooley Noted: The Great Inversion

Dooley Noted: The Great Inversion

Ours is a world full of strange phobias. Pastors sometimes struggle with chronomentrophobia, or the fear every of clocks. Students might battle didaskaleinophobia, which is the fear of school. Apparently, not everyone loves a PB&J sandwich, because arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. Years ago, Gary Larson comically introduced us to luposlipaphobia, which is the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a freshly waxed hardwood floor. My personal favorite, though, is the fear of long words, otherwise known as hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

Believe it or not, the Bible has much to say about fear, but all its ideas revolve around two central themes. First, there is a sense in which we should resist fear as a negative reality. The Apostle Paul instructed his protégé in the ministry by reminding him that the spirit of fear does not originate with God (2 Tim. 1:7). Here, the term refers to timidity, apprehension, and even dread, all of which can dominate our thinking and undermine our faith. No wonder the Apostle John remarked, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).” 

In another sense, however, we should view fear as both positive and essential for Christian maturity and growth. The psalmist explains, “How blessed is the man who fears the LORD.” King Solomon went further by explaining, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7).” The New Testament even maintains that we cannot grow in holiness apart from the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). The context of these verses equates fear with a reverence and awe that moves us toward greater obedience.

So how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Thankfully, Jesus strikes the clarifying balance that we need with the words, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).” The idea is that we should not fear the fallen realities of this world or the enemies of God’s kingdom, but we should always give God the reverence and respect that He deserves. Because the former is self-explanatory, let me spend a moment emphasizing the latter truth.

If you’re paying attention to the culture at all you’ve likely noticed that reverence for God is in short supply. What troubles me, though, is how professing Christians are quick to abandon biblical orthodoxy in exchange for trivial, self-centered pursuits. Treating God like celestial Santa Claus, we convince ourselves that He is obligated to give us what we want. The mere suggestion of taking up your cross and dying to self is offensive to many (Matt. 16:24).

Tucked away in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is a much-needed warning and reminder that not all worship is the same. Solomon offers this sobering counsel, “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God (Ecc. 5:1a) . . .” The phrase “keep your foot,” captures the meaning of the expression. The idea is that we should proceed with special caution, refusing to disrespect the Lord when we worship iHi


But how is that even possible? Doesn’t the fact that people gather to honor God require a certain level of respect? Solomon’s next imperative clarifies, “. . . draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil (Ecc. 5:1b).” The great inversion that often takes place on Sunday mornings is that God becomes just another means of getting what we want or of justifying how we live. So much of what we often spin as Christianity is nothing more than our efforts to fashion a god in our own image. Rather than listening carefully to the truths of Scripture we are quick to tell God how things ought to be. In other words, worship becomes one big charade where we continually seek to convince God that we’re good enough for His grandest blessings. Without realizing it, we sometimes make ourselves the focus our “devotion” to the Lord.

Solomon calls this dead, selfish praise the sacrifice of fools. Ironically, what ought to be a holy expression of love and desire for God can become an evil act of carnality. “Most people,” says David McKinley, “have enough religion to make themselves miserable and to make God sick.” When we worship Christ merely to get what we want, our fearful reverence of a holy God dissipates. And, like fools, we forget that the penetrating vision of the Lord sees right through our pretense (Heb. 4:13). No wonder the Bible says, “You better watch your step!”

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments