27 December 2013

"Putting our passions into proper perspective"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in January 2011. The topic was genuine versus artificial passion, and what lies behind each.

As usual, the comments are closed. 
When we consider Christ as the very incarnation of divine glory, it ought to put all our other passions into proper perspective. It ought to make us ashamed that our focus is so far off and we are not really passionate about the one thing that ought to excite us the most.

We imitate all the world's passions. We invent gimmicks to try to win worldly people by appealing to whatever mania has captured our culture's attention at the moment. We devote our energies and our emotions to things that are not even worthy of our attention. We do things to stir artificial passion—which is an especially sinister form of false worship.

Our passions should not need to be whipped up by spiritual cheerleaders and stadium chants. We shouldn't have to be worked into an emotional state by hype and melodrama and musical manipulation. If we can get pumped to a fever pitch by some rock-star pastor's antics rather than by the truth of the biblical message, then whatever we are feeling isn't even a legitimate passion in the first place.

Ersatz enthusiasm and crass tomfoolery actually contradict the message we're supposed to be proclaiming. With so many churches merely trying to entertain people, or lull them into a state of self-satisfaction, or simply gross them out, it's no wonder the world is not being won to Christ but actually becoming steadily more hostile to Christianity.

By the way, the passions stirred by a clear vision of God's glory aren't necessarily warm and comforting. It's not always a good feeling. In fact, it is much more likely that the first time someone catches a glimpse of God's glory, the result will be intense fear. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). Do a study on this in Scripture and take note of how people usually respond when they first see God for who He is. They fall on their faces in sheer terror. Almost every time.

God's glory also provokes profound amazement and wonder. Sometimes it's delight and rejoicing. (Peter fell on his face and confessed his sin when he first began to realize who Jesus was. But he sounded almost giddy when he saw Christ's glory unveiled on the Mount of Transfiguration.) All of those are legitimate emotions, and if they are real, they will make a lasting difference in us—something more than an impressive display of arm-raising and swaying with closed eyes during the song service; and something more credible than the pseudo-drunken behavior that has become such a plague in recent years.

Artificial religious enthusiasm is the bane of our age, and it's a powerful detriment to the church's testimony. There is perhaps no more reprehensible variey of raw hypocrisy.

On the other hand, if we really grasped and meditated on how the glory of God is revealed to us in Christ, we would never need any artificial gimmicks to stir our passions, and we certainly would never dream that we needed to try to make God seem "cooler" or more appealing than He actually is.