Dean Noonan is the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” (Psalm 4:4)
I want to just brag on God a bit. Stand in awe. The thought is this: Have we lost our awe? I am talking to a group of folks that the church is something that matters to us. The things of God and the Word of God matter to us. I am talking to a group of preachers that serving God matters to us, some of the best people I know.
But when it comes right down to it, have we lost the wonder of it all? Have we forgotten the purpose of why we do what we do? I think at times, we worship the preacher or the program, or let me say the creation more than the Creator. We worship the fellowship or the church and even its ministries. We worship our service to God, but are we in awe of God Himself? Psalm 33:8 says, “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” I have seen some amazing things and traveled to some amazing places. There have been a few that measured up to my expectation, but so often, I was greatly disappointed. But the first time I saw the Grand Canyon I wasn’t disappointed. I was awestruck. Yet there were other places and sights I was anticipating the sight of, yet actually seeing it was disappointing.
Now, the truth is this, God is never disappointing. The closer I get to see Him, the more I am amazed and in awe. You know, it is easy to be enamored by a man, especially when we don’t know them that well. Listen church members, you have a great pastor. You folks need to appreciate the man of God that he has given you here. But you see, it is in our nature to see another servant of God and say, “Wow, look at them, they are really something.” But you don’t even know them. You get impressed with someone you don’t know, and fail to appreciated those who labor in your midst because you are familiar with them. The best of men are men at best. Be thankful for those who give their lives and serve God whole-heartedly, but don’t let yourself get impressed with people.
God is the One who we ought to be awestruck over. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. When I stop and think about my great God, the truth is that it is my desire day by day to get a little clearer glimpse. I don’t think for a second I see him for all that He is. The truth is, it is difficult to do justice to the little that we do know about our God. In Psalm 139, verses 1-6 we read: “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” When you think about that, that God knows you and me better than we know ourselves, yet the scripture clearly tells us that God has an undying commitment to us. He has an unwavering love for us. Knowing Dean Noonan on his worst day, I am still his boy. I can agree with verse six. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” It is high, I can’t grasp it.
It is sad that we are so, (I don’t know if this is a word) under-whelmed, and unimpressed by who our God is. “I stand amazed at the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, a dirty, filthy, rotten sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be. How marvelous and how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
Have you lost your awe? You see, to awe is to quiver with emotion. To awe is to fall out, to be moved to change. Remember the song I have heard our men sing quite often, “I am so tired of being stirred and not being changed.”? You can’t sit through the preaching we have enjoyed at this great conference and not be stirred. But how often have we been stirred at meetings and conferences like this one, and right in our own churches, and then we go right back to the same old same old. Our hearts are stirred but not changed. A good message can stir us. A poem, a song done well can stir us. But when God gets in there, it changes us. “Stand in awe and sin not.”
#1 Our view of God determines how we see everything else.
I want to give you several thoughts. The first is this, our view of God determines how we see everything else. Our vision. Our values. Our morals. They are all shaped and molded by our view of God. As we look at another passage, and we see the seraphims cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” When we see holy, it is not difficult to notice what’s unholy, and the stark difference.
But when we don’t see Him for who He is, that might explain some of the behavior going on today amongst God’s children. We don’t have to spend our time preaching on the world’s view of God, it is our view that’s the problem. So, my view of God shapes how I live. It shapes my values, my morals, my priorities, my spirit, even my doctrine. It directly relates to my view of God, and again, you might have forgotten more Bible than I know, but I believe much false doctrine is formed because of the lack of faith. The lack of believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He will do.
So, when we have a perverted view of God, we are going to end up with perverse doctrine. Second Timothy 1:12-13, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” I am all for teaching doctrine. We do that, and our young people ought to know what they believe. But the truth is, you have to get it settled in your heart who you believe, “I know whom I have believed.” If you get the who settled, the what, you will figure that out if you keep on following Him.
The problem is that folks can’t figure out who they are going to follow next week. You are going to click on some internet preacher, and pretty soon, you have a whole new belief system because you don’t know whom you believe. “For I know whom I have believed.”
As a young man saved at age 16, and I finally realized that I would be the biggest fool in the world not to follow the Lord with my life. I had no idea what God wanted from me, I just decided I wanted Him. I understand that God calls people to preach. I did not surrender to preach specifically. I surrendered to follow God. As a teenage boy, I just decided I am getting ahold of Him, and wherever You take me Lord, I will go. No girl, no job, no dream was going to get between me and the Lord, for I know whom I have believed. Many turn away from our God. We claim to know Him. Oh, but you can’t walk away from Him if you know Him. Our view of God determines how we see everything. Twisted morals, twisted view of God. I have to come to a point in my life where I am either going to repent because I realize He is right and I am wrong, or my view of God has to change.
A couple years ago, a man that sat in our church service. It was exposed that he was addicted to pornography, and was not willing to deal with it. He ended up leaving not only the church, but he left his wife and children. Today he professes to be an atheist. You see, either we change under the authority of this Book and the authority of the God of Heaven, or we exchange Him, because how I view Him determines how I see everything else.
#2 The church has been blinded to the glory and majesty of our great God.
Secondly, the church has been blinded to the glory and majesty of our great God. We are familiar with II Corinthians 4: 4, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” We would agree that Satan works overtime to blind the lost and keep them from gettting saved. Because if they see the glorious Gospel of Christ, think about it folks, how could anybody say no to Jesus? How could anyone say no to the free gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord? How could anyone say no to that? But they are blind. They don’t see it, but we see it. But I don’t believe that Satan’s deception and tactic of blinding people stops with the lost. I believe he is blinding the church. He is blinding another generation coming behind us.
As a kid, we had some primitive toys. Remember a kaleidoscope? To a kid today, a kaleidoscope is boring. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent looking through my kaleidoscope. It changed how I saw everything. The color and the shapes was amazing. I think God’s children need to get a hold of a “gloryscope.” As we see our God for who He is, it will change how we see everything.
I just thought of a story. Many of you know my brother Don who pastors in Rochester, Minnesota. When we were boys, we grew up in the projects of Milwaukee. One day I found a big old telescope in somebody’s garbage can. I thought I just hit the big one! We pulled that out of the trash, and after looking through it for a moment, I came to realize there were no lenses, there was just the eyepiece and a little mirror that reflected up the large tube, but no lenses in the tube. But I didn’t tell my brother that.
So it was getting dark, and I set up the telescope in our alley, and pointed it straight up at the street light, just above us. I said, “Hey Don, look in here. You can see the moon.” He looked into it, and he went, “WOW!” Then he said this, “It looks like it is so close. I can even see the craters.” I am telling ya, folks if we are not careful, we are seeing all kinds of things that aren’t God. It is not the real stuff, and the enemy is working overtime to blind us to God’s glory and get our eyes on everything that’s not for real.
We see an example in Psalm 51 in David’s repentance. He made a number of statements through his prayer of confession and acknowledgment that he had sinned before God. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” He expresses how he had been robbed and how his foolishness had covered his sin, that affected how he saw His God, and he wanted it back again.
Have we lost our awe? Are we blinded by false teaching? Matthew 7: 15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” You know what I found? Those false prophets don’t even have to have good wolf suits. People seem to be very willing to latch their teeth onto something new, something different, because you know what? If there is something new and different out there, maybe it is really not your fault that you are a lousy Christian, so we will blame our church because they are narrow minded. We will blame our Bible college. We will blame our youth pastors. We will blame our parents, because that way, we don’t have to take responsibility.
Believe me, everything we’ve been hearing about grace! Whew! We need that, but I am talking to the folks sitting in the pews right now. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the enemy’s trap, young and old. Parents, let me just say, if your kids are struggling, don’t struggle along with them. You are not going to help your children by sympathizing with them. Love them, don’t stop loving them. Don’t burn the bridge, but stay where God put you and don’t follow your children into backsliding.
Blinded. We are blinded with familiarity. We become so familiar with God’s working that we are not impressed by it. The average church out there has not even seen a sinner walk an aisle. It’s been years since anyone has been saved through their ministry. They don’t even have water in their baptistry, it’s a planter. But those of us who see those things happen and God changing lives on a regular basis, we can’t afford to get used to it and the mighty power of God becomes ho-hum, no big deal. It ought to still thrill our soul. We saw eight folks saved on Sunday. A young lady came up, a girlfriend of one of our backslidden boys, and she had come on a few occasions. That boy’s daddy who is faithful in our church is burdened for that girl and had given her the Gospel several times, and she had been in a few of our services. Well Sunday, she got saved. My wife went to deal with her. She said, “I got saved today. I feel so relieved.” Whew!!!!!!!! Glory to God!!!!!! I went up to her backslidden boyfriend later as they were standing together, and said, “Isn’t it exciting she got saved?” He just kind of rolled his eyes.
We become familiar with the way God works, and it no longer thrills us. We become familiar with the way that God moves in our hearts. See, we are losing the next generation. They know all about God. We have kids graduating our Christian schools that can write better doctrinal statements than some of us did when we were getting ordained. They know the Christian school handbook. They know the rules down at that Bible college. They have heard the sermons and attended he conferences, but they don’t love God.
You see, as a first-generation Christian, technically, second since my mom got saved 3 days before me. It was a soulwinner from our church that worked with my uncle, and he was witnessing to my uncle faithfully on second shift, working the big steel plant. One night after work, my uncle came knocking on our door, and he was much like a dad to my brother and I since our dad wasn’t in the picture at all. My uncle knocked on the door. My mom answered the door, she had gotten out of bed. She said, “What do you want Joe?”
He said, “Guess what? I got saved.”
She said, “You got what?” Of course, that term meant nothing to us.
I heard him say, “You need to take those boys down to Faith Baptist Church. Those boys need to get saved.” Well, a few weeks later, mom said my brother and I were going to go to church. We thought that meant the Catholic church. But no, we turned right where we normally would turn left, and we went to a little Baptist church, Faith Baptist Church, meeting in a small YMCA building that they had purchased a few years before. There were about 30 people there that day. We walked in, and right away I looked for the holy water. No stained glass windows. No crucifix with Jesus hanging on it. Then the preacher came out, and he wasn’t wearing a dress, and I thought, “This is no church!”
When that preacher began to preach, I had never understood a thing that was said in a Catholic church service, but that day, I understood exactly what he was saying. I remember as my brother and I were sitting there and the invitation was given, my mom raised her hand, and we both looked at each other. Mom was between us. She would not let us sit next to each other in church because we fought. My mom got up and walked down that aisle and got saved. Three days later, I got saved.
You see, to the first generation getting born again is receiving the greatest gift that you have ever received in your life. I remember those first days in church standing in awe. I remember when they sang Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound. I sure understood it that day. I remember the goosebumps going up and down my arms. God was big in my eyes. I thank God that this summer will be 40 years, and I have not got over it yet.
You see, it is not a curse to be a second-generation Christian. But you are going to have to get it on purpose. What was a blessing and a gift and a life-changing experience for your parents, and maybe your grandparents, it is an inheritance to you. You grew up hearing the truth.
Folks listen. If a layman who works down at IBM comes home and complains about his boss, and his kids get disgruntled, they just might never want to buy anything from IBM. It will be okay. But when they listen to us gripe and complain and talk about how hard it is and how rough it is, we wonder why they want nothing to do with the church. When they are about 16-years-old they have listened to you criticize the man of God for years, and now they are in trouble and you are going to drag them to the preacher’s office and say, “Preacher, fix them,” and they are sitting on the other side of the desk not impressed or caring at all what the preacher has to say. Then it’s too late. The damage has already been done.
It says that one generation should praise God’s works to another and declare thy mighty acts, I will speak of the glorious honor of the majesty and of thy works. Oh boy, there needs to be some praising and bragging on God going on in our churches and in our homes. I am thankful by the grace of God. Calvin is here tonight, and God allowed him to become a part of our family. Calvin is in full time evangelism. Our other seven children all serve in our church. Our five oldest are married. We have 10 grandchildren right now. Every Sunday, we see them all. I don’t know, I think there mama must have threatened them or something. But you know what? Our kids would tell you that it is a blessing and a thrill to grow up in the pastor’s house. They think that they were privileged that God would allow them to do that. Now listen, I am not that great of a daddy, but we got a good mama. And the Lord has been so good to us.
Parents, what’s wrong with us, criticizing the church? “Aw, if you had the problems that I’ve got...” Right, because I know that I didn’t have any problems. Three years after I got into the ministry, I lost 700 people in one Sunday. No problems. My wife to this day still finds out things that happened back then, you know why? Because I wasn’t going to poison her spirit either. God did not give my wife shoulders for me to cry on. If you need your wife for sympathy, you are going to destroy her. Personally I think that Jezabel gets a bad rap. She had a sissy husband, and women with sissy husbands get a bad spirit. I found there was somewhere I could go to get what I needed, and it was not on her shoulder.
Psalm 78 is another great passage that says we ought to praise and glorify the Lord to our children “Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:” (Psalm 78:3-7)
#3. When we see God for who He is, it changes everything.
When we see God for who he is, it changes everything. Isaiah 6 says, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.... Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” I think, at times, there are kings that rise up in our life that keep us from seeing God for who He is. “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Holy! Holy! Holy! Listen folks, when we see holy, it is not difficult to recognize unholy. But we cannot revere or fear a God we don’t know. Of course, we can rattle through the fact that God is omnipotent, all powerful. He is omniscient, all-knowing. He is immutable and omnipresent. The scripture tells us that there is no variableness in our God. He is unchanging. He is just, gracious, merciful and forgiving. God is love. God is sovereign. God is faithful.
When we stop and think of who God is, that is where our praise ought to be directed, not what He does, because tomorrow you are going to be wondering why hasn’t God come through for you today. We don’t understand how God works. I know I sure don’t. But would we please realize who He is?
We can talk about billionaires. Our President is a wealthy man. But his wealth does not matter to me. You know why? I am never going to get a dime of it. If all we did was sit around and study about this God, but He didn’t take all that He is and all that He has and offer to give it to us, it wouldn’t matter to us, would it? Our God takes everything that He is and says here, “I will give it to you, and I will be a God to you and you will be my people,” and that is why it matters! That is why we can stand in awe, because everything He is means everything to us when we see Him for who he is.
Please pause for a few minutes and consider these simple points about seeing God for Who He really is: First, it changes how I see myself. Notice, I have no problems seeing other people saved. I can see it, I can fix it. Preacher, we are great counselors, but we struggle taking our own advice. But when Isaiah saw this Holy God, what was his response? “Woe is me.” What is he saying? “I am a mess. I am broken, and I need Him.” When we see Him for who He is, we see our sin for what it is -- our own sin. Boy, when we hear preaching on other people’s sin, we shout from the rafters. But I love it when it gets quiet and conviction settles heavy on us.
Romans 7 speaks on sin and what it does to us. Not only have we become a society of victims, and they will tell you to wear the victim badge with honor. Be offended with honor. Be bitter with honor, because you are a victim. Listen, there is not a one of us that has not been wronged in one way or another, and there are some in here that you have been seriously wronged. But I am not going to live as a victim for anyone. I want to be a victor, an overcomer, but we have got to see ourselves and our sin, by seeing God for who He really is.
Not only did he see his own sin, it goes on to tell us, “Then said I, I dwell in the midst of the people of uncleanness.” He saw others differently, too. Stop looking and measuring your God based upon people. We need to look at people through Him. You get wronged by somebody in the church, and you say, “I am leaving” because you look at God through those people. After getting a good look at who God is, he saw others differently. When he saw people of unclean lips, he realized that they were not the standard.
First, man is not the standard. You are not OK because you are better than the person sitting next to you. Second Corinthians 10:12 tells us that we are not to compare ourselves with one another. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” It doesn’t matter which way you come out on that. We only need to compare ourselves to Christ.
Secondly, people are not my excuse. Thirdly, people are not my anchor. I have got a foundation that is not built with hands. Fourthly, you do realize that Jesus was surrounded by broken people. Why are we surprised at the condition of the people around us? Pastors, why are we surprised when we get disappointed. The last time I checked, I only have broken people in my church, and they are pastored by a broken guide. We set ourselves up to be hurt when we fail to realize that.
I am surrounded by broken people, and at best, we can all be trying to build this thing back, but realize that’s why when you need to have mercy. Luke 6:36 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Lastly, I got a good look at who God is, and He said there was redemption. That is the difference between the work of God and the work in my life. When God works, when God brings conviction of the proof our life, there is always a solution. It might be a bit uncomfortable, but there is always an answer. I am thankful that God did not show this sinner boy that he was lost and said, “Good luck. Hope you figure it out.” No, not at all. He said, “I’ve got an answer for your every need. I’ve got a remedy.”
Whatever it is you are going through, take heart, God has got an answer. This Bible has the solution. We have a great God. Don’t ever lose sight of it. The truth is, all of us ought to go on a quest -- the search for the glory, the majesty, and the greatness of our God, and get our focus back on who He is.