“It is easy to slip into the familiar. Our worship, our devotions, our small groups, and even our Sunday experiences can become so familiar that we no longer value or expect to encounter God in them.”
Every Sunday, we go to church, put on our ministry badges and say a morning prayer with our teams. Slowly, people trickle in, one by one, family by family, until the auditorium is nearly full. The countdown video indicates we are just about to start. When it reaches zero, the worship leader boisterously welcomes everyone as the band builds the energy and launches into the first up-tempo song. A pastor transitions from singing to prayer, welcomes everyone, and shares some church announcements. Next, the lead pastor emerges on stage and gives a compelling and inspiring 40-minute message. As the room begins to empty, you hear whispers of how great the service was. And, of course, others instantly become experts and critics of sound, communication and friendliness. However, the smiles on their faces suggest that, overall, today was a win.
Does that Sunday experience sound familiar? Familiar. Have we become too familiar with worship and our relationship with Jesus? When we become too familiar with something, we lose sight of its value. We lose our sense of awe and wonder. This can happen with possessions. Think of when a child receives a new toy. At first, it’s all they want to play with. They keep it in a safe place and spend all their time with it—until they start getting bored, and it becomes too familiar. The toy then slowly makes its way to the bottom of the toy box and is forgotten. The same can happen in relationships. We can become so familiar with a friend, or even a spouse, that we start taking advantage of them—their talents, gifts and time spent together. We stop honouring them and being grateful for their input in our lives. We become so familiar that we no longer value them like we once did.
It is easy to slip into the familiar. Our worship, our devotions, our small groups, and even our Sunday experiences can become so familiar that we no longer value or expect to encounter God in them. They become a mundane routine and motions we simply go through. We remain busy with religious activity but miss Jesus day after day, week after week.
After one of Jesus’s miracles, one translation says the disciples were “awestruck.” They said, “You really are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33, TLB). They were in awe of who Jesus was. To be in awe means to experience “an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration.”1 Many believers have lost their “awe and wonder” of Jesus. They have stopped being amazed by Him. And as a result, it impacts their faith, worship, expectations and even their purpose. They find themselves going through the motions of life without true meaning.
The Gospel of John was written to both Jews and Gentiles, and John’s primary purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of God. John does this very poetically, systematically and theologically. He gives us Jesus’s own confession of who He says He is in the seven “I AM” statements. These all have significant meaning and are statements of Jesus claiming to be God.
To take it a step further, Jesus’s words are accompanied and confirmed by His works. John presents seven “signs.” A sign is a picture that points to a deeper reality than the sign itself. When Jesus does a miracle, it is never an end in itself. It always has another layer of meaning, a deeper reality. Of course, these miracles, like healing lepers and raising the dead, were good and beautiful things that significantly impacted people’s lives and improved the world. For instance, if you were a groom with no more wine, you would be relieved to find the best winemaker at your party and to be spared social humiliation. If you were born blind and suddenly could see the beautiful colours of God’s creation, that would be life-changing. If you had leprosy and hadn’t been touched by anyone in years, being healed and restored to the world of people, work, and worship would be life-giving in ways we can’t comprehend.
Jesus’s intentions, however, went beyond meeting immediate, individual and temporal needs. His actions were signs or pointers to a deeper revelation about Himself. They are the physical evidence to the world of the reality of who Jesus is. He is the Son of God, the Creator of the depths of the sea and the stars of the sky, the One who sustains all things and holds all things together. He is the Beginning and End, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Resurrection and the Life, God Almighty. The Psalmist writes, “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:8-9, ESV).
Jesus didn’t just come to teach us good moral lessons, nor was He a magician doing tricks. John states, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, ESV). Jesus came to reveal who He is—the Son of God who transforms people’s normal, everyday, stale existence into something sweet and colourful that affects the senses and stimulates the soul.
I pray that we never become too familiar with or lose our awe of Jesus, that we never become so stuck in the ordinary that we miss the extraordinary person of Jesus, and that we never grow weary of seeing His beauty, splendour and glory. May we be continually captured by His presence.
Ben Johnston is the lead pastor at Global Kingdom Ministries in Scarborough, Ont., where he has served in various capacities for over 15 years. He has been married to Dianne for 14 years and has two children.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com.
- “Awe,” Vocabulary.com, accessed October 14, 2022, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/awe.