making a case for being small

July 10, 2009


“Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God…  Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have.”  (John Calvin)

It is a good thing to know how small you are.  I know… this flies in the face of our “self-esteem” building educational system, and with the American ideal climb up the corporate ladder.  It actually goes against our very nature.  But I like to feel small.  I believe it keeps me in mind of what is true about me and about God.

Every year when I go to Hilton Head, SC, with our family, I make it a point of submerging myself in the black ocean at midnight.  The higher the wind and crashing surf the better.  If you follow me on Twitter you know about my encounters with glowing phytoplankton under the stars last month.  The power and wonder of God’s creativity and supremacy surrounds me and frightens me a bit in those moments.  I feel how truly small I am.

And God is overwhelming and awesome and completely sovereign over nature and people and every corner of the universe- and I am here and you are here to enjoy HIM – so that HE can enjoy our worship.  Ultimately, it is all about Him.  Not all about us.

That’s why I started with the quote from John Calvin above.  Today marks his 500th birthday.  If you’re not a church-going-type, that may hold little significance to you, but it does to me.  Calvin has had a huge impact on our theology as a Christian Church.  (And I love you Armenians, too.  We’re on the same team!)  Now I am mentored by great teachers and God-fearers who have learned from him.  John Piper.  Louie Giglio.  John Calvin’s high view of God and belief that God is sovereign in all things continues to point me God-ward over and over and over.  I am so grateful.

“But wait a minute…” I can hear some of you thinking.  Protesting.  “If it’s ALL about God…  What about, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know?’  What about, ‘For God so loved the world?’  What about, ‘Christ died for sinners…’  Didn’t Jesus die for ME?  I mean, the Bible tells me so… right?”

Yes.  And no.  Jesus went to the cross to save lost souls (you and me), redeem them, and restore them to a relationship with God because of His great love for us… to the end that HE will be MAGNIFIED, EXALTED, PRAISED, and WORSHIPPED.  We reap the benefit of saving grace, and we turn around to WORSHIP GOD because of it.  Ultimately, God receives more honor, and we are deeply fulfilled.  The two great passions of the universe simultaneously fulfilled in Jesus:  Our great longing to be satisfied and God’s great longing to be glorified.  Because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  (with a tip of the hat to John Piper)

This is a HUGE gear-shift in thinking for many Christians who have lived thinking that Jesus died for us ultimately because of our significance.  Not so.  Because of HIS significance, yes.  As a worship leader, my job is to make sure this truth points our church GOD-ward in our worship times.  In everything.  God is exalted more and more, and this is more and more satisfying to our souls.

But my words and explanations are feeble.  If you’re interested, I’d suggest you go here and poke around.  A wealth of resources and teaching about God’s supremacy in all things.  And if you’re ready for a RIDE, don’t take my word for it, look at what the Bible has to say.  God is the center.  He’s the reason.  For everything from cover to cover.  Here’s an incomplete list to start your wheels turning:

God’s  Highest Value is Himself:  His own glory and His name’s renown.

Isaiah 42:8  >  “I am the LORD:  that is my name!  I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

Isaiah 44:6  >  This is what the LORD says — Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:  “I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God.”

Isaiah 45:5  >  “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.”

Isaiah 45:18  >  For this is what the LORD says — He who created the heavens, He is God;  He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited — He says:  “I am the LORD, and there is no other.”

 Psalm 135:6  >  The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.

The primacy of God’s glory is displayed throughout Redemptive History

Before there were people:

Psalm 90:1-2  (A prayer of Moses the man of God.)  Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

God’s purpose for creation:

Psalm 19:1  >  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Psalm 96:11  >  Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord…

God’s reason for creating people:

Isaiah 43:6-7  >  “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made,”

Isaiah 43:20-21  >  “I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

God’s purpose in delivering His people from bondage in Egypt:

Exodus 8:1  >  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says:  Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'”

Isaiah 63:11-14  >  Where is He who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock?  Where is He who set His Holy Spirit among them, who sent His glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for Himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths?  …they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD.  This is how you guided Your people to make for Yourself a glorious name.

Psalm 106:7-8  >  When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to Your miracles; they did not remember Your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.  Yet He saved them for His name’s sake, to make His mighty power known.

The purpose of God’s mercy:

NOTE:  Even before the cross, when Israel again and again turned away from God, He showed mercy for His name’s sake…

Ezekiel 36:20-23  >  And whenever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they leave His land.’  I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.  Therefore say to the House of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.  I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them.  Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

Psalm 79:9  >  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.

Jeremiah 14:7  >  Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of Your name.  For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against You.

I Samuel 12:22  >  For the sake of His great name the LORD will not reject His people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.

 NOTE:  God sent His only Son not just to die for us, but to magnify Himself.

 God’s purpose in Jesus’ birth:

Luke 2:14  >  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”

Jesus’ primary reason for coming to earth:

Romans 15:8-9  >  “…Christ became a servant to the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the Patriarchs, so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy…”

Jesus’ decision to go to the cross:

Luke 17:1  >  Jesus… Looked toward heaven and prayed:  “Father, the time has come.  Glorify You Son, that Your Son may glorify You.”

God’s reason for sending His son to the cross:

Romans 3:25  >  “God presented Him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…”

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven:

Philippians 2:9-11  >  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus will come again in power to consummate His mission on earth:

II Thessalonians 2:9-10  >  Those who do not obey the gospel will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed…

The Church exists for God’s glory:

I Peter 2:9  >  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

God’s glory is the point of missions:

Isaiah 66:19  >  “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations… to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory.  They will proclaim my glory among the nations.”

This is the God-ordained destiny of every nation:

Psalm 86:9  >  All the nations You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord; they will bring glory to Your name.

We have a purpose for living:

Matthew 5:16  >  (Jesus said) “Let your light so shine before men that they will se your good deeds and praise (glorify) your Father in heaven.”

In our praying:

Matthew 6:9  >  (Jesus said) This, then, is how you should pray:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name…”

 NOTE: “Hallowed be Your name” means “may Your name be revered…”  Make Your name great, God.  Magnify your name, amplify Your fame…

The reason we are forgiven:

I John 2:12  >  I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.

At the end of time:

Revelation 5:11-13  >  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang:  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing :  “To Him who sits on throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.

In summary, Paul wrote:

Colossians 3:17  >  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

I Corinthians 10:31  >  “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

 My deepest prayer – for my life and for the church I serve…

Psalm 115:1  >  Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.

What an AWESOME God.  He alone deserves my best effort and greatest affection and most focussed attention.  Since He loves me, I have no problem feeling small.  That’s how it ought to be.

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“making a case for being small” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.