Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
"Who Is God?" Making God In OUR Image

Losing The Biblical Awe

Exodus 20:18-19; 32:1-4

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. We begin a series that focus attention upon a criticaltopic - GOD! Our personal/private concept of God is the most important thing in our belief system. 

1. No person ever rises above his/her idea of God. 

The greatest factor in religion is not what one confesses to believe but what one's heart believes God to be. There is a secret law of the soul that moves one toward their mental image of God (cf. Ro 1:21-23).

2. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge Of The Holy (1961) :

"The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself ... the most revealing thing abt the Church is her idea of God ... the mightest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God ... Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions" (p. 1-3).

"The man who comes to a right belief abt God is relieved of 10,000 temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him very long" (p. 4).

Since one's belief abt God is so critical, for one to corrupt the truth abt God is an inexcusable act (Ps 50:21). "Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is ... and substitutes for the true God one made after its likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. A God begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God ... The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts abt God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind ... The idolater simply imagines things abt God and acts as if they were true" (p. 5).

When idolatry is transferred from one heart into others and ultimately into the congregation, disaster results. "The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God ... The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him" (p. 7).

II. Have you ever given serious thought to the God of your beliefs?
How do you imagine God? How well do you know God? Does the angelic praise (Rv 4:8b) or the idolatrous form (Ps 50:21) reflect your beliefs abt God? This is a disturbing query but it must be asked. Pharaoh's question (Ex 5:2) deserves answering. How will you answer it? This series will offer you a basis for answering.
III. Think about the way in which God is viewed today.
Visit any church worship on Sunday morning and you will likely find a congregation comfortably relating to a deity who fits nicely within their precise doctrinal positions, lends almighty support to their social crusades, or who is exactly what they desire in spiritual experiences. But there will be an absence of awe! This group has dared approach the Almighty God yet they feel no awe; no sweaty palms, no shaky knees. The atmosphere is totally different from that found in the Scriptures (Rv 1:17; Hb 12:28-29).

1. "Reverence and awe have been replaced by a yawn of familiarity. The consuming fire has been domesticated into a candle flame" (DMc, 13).

2. "Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?" (Annie Dillard, Teaching Stones To Talk, 40).

3. To be honest, many have accepted a concept of the God of the Bible and whittled it down to a manageable proportion; they re-fashion God to fit their expectations and to serve their desires. God thus becomes the Patron of a specific political party; the Specter for one overruling cause; the Censor for one specific belief. And so modern man has "exchanged" the glory of the incorruptible God for a god which will be convenient. The result -- biblical awe is lost.

4. Is it possible that such has happened in your life? In this congregation? This is what our series seeks to explore and answer.


I. ISRAEL -- Losing the holy awe at Mt. Sinai!

A. Israel was liberated from Egyptian slavery by the visible power of Almighty God. The nation marched to Sinai and there beheld the visible power of God. All of this was too much for the nation (Ex 20:18-19). Who can blame them for their fear? Their request was just. But this awe was lost. They wanted a god that was more to their liking. They did not intend to abandon God, they just wanted a better concept of Him, one that was more meaningful to them and one that would relate to their needs (32:1-4).

B. Israel's lost resulted from 3 steps.


She forgot that God was far different from what she could imagine. She wanted a god who would be useful to her immediate needs, who would conform to her concepts. Imagining a different deity, she made this deity never thinking she had abandoned God (32:4b).


32:1. God seemed too distant; too slow; to unaccommo-dating. They wanted something immediately; something more satisfying.


"Make us" "We do not know" are terms expressing Israeli feelings that they ought to be in complete control of the situation. Forgetting she had yielded to God's control (20:18-19) she pressed the fact that each had the "right" to make personal demands abt the kind of "god" they desired (32:23).

II. The Church -- Losing the holy awe today!

The history of religion reveals that there has always been the temptation to forsake God for other gods. Even in Eden idolatry was a problem for man/woman sought to be "like" God (Gn 3:5). This temptation continues to present problems to modern believers.

1. Modern minds often hold a greater awe for the mysteries of scientific technology than for the Almighty God. Confidence in science  encourages us to just wait and all ignorance will eventually be answered by scientific methods.

2. The scientific revolution has pushed God into the shadows of life. The unknown answers which belong to God (Dt 29:29) are crowded out by the flood of facts and measurable data. God has been forced into retirement as totally unnecessary.

3. Reliance upon Science has led many to accept psychology's conclusion that any "God" is really a projection of one's psyche and is only the image of that person's desires. Sociology has reduced "God" to a mere human cultural concept.

4. Today's unanswerable questions exist only because Science has not yet brought every element of Nature under control. With more time, more money, and more research all unknowns will be answered.

5. A casualty of this reverence for Science is the Believer's awe in the Almighty God. No longer do we place matters of ignorance into the Almighty's hands and find contentment. No longer are we awed at the thought of approaching the Almighty and will not feel terror as Abram (Gn 15:12), hide as Moses (Ex 3:6), fall as Saul (Ac 9:4), or cry as Isaiah (Is 6:5).

1. Many feel God's silence means He is distant from us; unconcerned abt us.

2. Many want to "feel" God's nearness and state the God of the Bible is not real enough.

3. Many face problems in life that find release through affluence. So God becomes a casualty. There is no real need FOR God when we are able to provide our own cures.

4. Those who face problems without available cures cry out to God but hear only silence -- no reassuring voice; no strong arm to help. Only acute loneliness and excruciating emptiness of the soul. This brings abt indifference. Living in a world where technological innovations have made communication instant, we want an instant answer from God. But our desperate plea to hear God's authoritative voice is met with silence. We are tempted to fashion a God that communicates and leads and speaks to us as we desire.

1. No other country is as prone to this as the USA. Freedom is our most precious national asset and modern minds have made individualism a national religion. Whatever else we believe, all will believe that "each one must believe his/her way and it is wrong to force group beliefs upon others."

2. In American religion the emphasis is upon a PERSONAL experience that over-rides everything else. "In the 18th century, it was possible for individuals to find the form of religion that best suited their inclinations. By the 19th century, religious bodies had to compete in a consumer's market and grew or declined in terms of changing patterns of individual religious tastes" (DMc, 22).

3. The cancerous religious individualism is best portrayed by a study which quotes a young nurse, Sheila Lawson. She describes her faith as "Sheilaism." "I believe in God. I'm not a religious fanatic. I can't remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice" (Robert Bella, Habits of the Heart -- Individualism and Commitment In American Life, 1985).

4. This devotion to individualism has brought chaos to our society. Morality, application of laws, personal responsibility, etc., have all become subject to individual-ism. Nowhere is this tragedy more evident than in religion.

a. It introduced a "cafeteria style" religion.

b. It encourages the individual to "invite Jesus into your heart." And has developed an entire theology on "per-sonal acceptance" that is swapped for the biblical call to surrender Self to Jesus.

c. It has created individual gods that "fit" our individual moods. A god who, in any way, threatens our comfort, our liberties, our self-centered lifestyles is not acceptable. We seek a god who will be tolerant of everything, condemning of nothing, and demanding of only the pleasurable.


I. Have you ever considered that Ex 20:4,5 was NOT to pagans but to those who believed in God? A good friend of mine recently made a genuine confession abt his concept of God. "I'm preaching through Exodus and last week's lesson was from 32:26-28. I really thought of skipping that passage b/c it portrays God in a way that I don't like. I was forced to see a side of God that causes me to recoil; I was very uncomfortable. But I really had no choice did I?"

II. Here then is a frank analysis of why Believers today are often guilty of forsaking the God of the Bible for other gods. We have lost a sense of awe in appearing before the Almighty. We fail to deal with God's silence when information is exploding around us. We have been born and bred to reverence individualism more than we reverence God. The tragedy of making God into OUR image is illustrated by Israel's later history. The nation did not learn at Sinai the folly of re-designing God to fit personal whims. Idolatry continually plagued the nation until God would excuse it no longer. Finally Exile occurred. As Babylonian troops were marching away the exiles, Jeremiah composed Lamentations. His words underscore the folly of allowing one's imaginations to fashion God (cf Lam 5:1-3a).

III. This sets the basis upon which our other lessons will stand. Let us make sure we are not guilty of re-making God in our image; of re-defining God by the world's vocabulary. Failure to honor the God of the Bible is essentially self-centeredness -- sin! It is a choice to follow folly instead of wisdom (Pr 9:10).

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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