I have addressed in this space before there fact that I think too many people have become far too casual in their attitude toward and approach toward God. I realize there are differences of opinion as to how one should dress for church, and there is certainly no biblical text which clearly presents a case for dressing one way or the other. Still, I will always be of the opinion that one should dress differently–read “better”–to go to church than to go about his or her ordinary daily activities. If there is no difference in the clothes I wear to the grocery store, the ball game, the workplace and church then there is, in my opinion, a problem. To me the casual attire worn by so many to church indicates that church is not a special place. Sure, the church building is just a building and the people there are just other people, but those people are gathered in that building for the purpose of worshiping Almighty God–and that is not to be taken lightly.
Back in June there was a daily devotion in Tabletalk entitled “To whom are we speaking?” In this entry, the author presents another side of the overly casual approach that many seem to have toward God. “Knowing the identity of the One to whom we are praying is essential. Over the past few decades, there has been a move toward reducing formality in our culture and making all of our relationships far more casual than our forefathers would have considered them. Although we could perhaps find some positives in this, it is also true that we have lost much in the process.”
I can remember when the transition began from addressing pastors as Pastor Smith to Pastor Adam. As a young person it did not feel appropriate to me, given my upbringing and the ingrained habit of not referring to adults by their first names. I have heard the arguments about leveling the playing field, not elevating themselves above others, etc., and if that is someone’s personal preference then I suppose I can get used to that. That, in other words, is not something we need to argue about or fight over. What we do need to take far more seriously, however, is our view of God.
The devotional writer suggests that we have “lost an awareness of the One whom we approach in our worship and prayer. All too often we view God as merely a friend. Now certainly it is true that Jesus has granted us the privilege of calling Him ‘friend’ (John 15:15), and we are not denying the truth that our Savior is our friend in the sense of being our loyal–indeed, our only perfectly loyal–companion. However, the problem is that we have turned the concept of the Father and Son as our friends into the Father and Son as our ‘pals,’ as persons who are on essentially the same level that we are. Our Creator, as friendly as His disposition may be to those who have been declared righteous in Christ, is not our pal; rather, He is our Lord.”
Scripture makes it clear that those who encountered messengers of God were awestruck, reverential and even afraid. Other than the time that Jesus lived on earth as a human, I can find no support in Scripture for approaching God–the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit–with anything other than reverence, awe and humility. I have met a number of “celebrities” during my life, and never have I approached one of them with the bonhomie with which I would approach my brother or a close friend. No doubt if I did so they would find it unimpressive and presumptuous on my part. Now, you may argue that that is because I do not have a relationship with those individuals and therefore I could not presume to put myself on their personal level. I could grant that point, but I believe it goes beyond that. There is a scene in the movie The American President in which Michael Douglas, playing the president, and Martin Sheen, playing his friend and chief of staff, are having a very frank and personal conversation. Douglas’s character at one point tells Sheen’s character to drop the “Mr. President” and talk to him they were old friends. Sheen’s character refuses, though, because even though they were old friends and knew each other “back when”, Douglas’s character had risen to the office of President of the United States, and that position demanded respect and certain decorum. Regardless of their lengthy friendship, there was no place for a casual buddy-buddy interaction.
The same is true of our relationship with God. Yes, He does allow us to call Him friend. Yes, He does stick closer than a brother. Yes, we have been given the privilege to go directly to God in prayer without the need for any mediator. The fact, though, remains, that He is God…and we are not. Let us not forget that. Let us approach His throne boldly but reverently, unashamedly but also unassumingly.