My eyes could pan the entire city of Toronto at a glance from the vivid perch high atop the CN Tower, the world's tallest self-supporting structure. The first time I stood beneath this behemoth spire I was overtaken with awe as my eyes surveyed this man-made structure soaring some 300 times my own height (1,815 feet, 5 inches to be exact). Just an hour earlier, as my car approached the outskirts of the megalopolis, the same structure which now engulfed me was merely an intriguing blip on the horizon. It was reduced by distance. From afar, this same tower had actually fit between my two fingers; up close, my senses were absolutely overwhelmed by the view. It stretched above the cityscape to create a sun canopied futuristic skyline that stamped a modern and unmistakable image on the memory. The closer I got the more impressive it seemed.
My mind for a moment was stunned when I considered just what the tower represented -- the merging of minds and the mountain of calculations, the pooling of ideas and cascades of cooperation, the teaming of man hours and the energies expended. A sight to behold. For a lingering moment, the convergence of considerations was more than my own set of senses could fully absorb.
Paul the Apostle apparently had a similar experience with an engulfing "presence" of a different kind. In a familiar passage, he cites a doorway of great insight and responsibility in the path of every believer. In Romans 12:1, Paul draws our attention as Christians to his incomparable view: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God =- this is your spiritual act of worship."
Interestingly enough, while pounding out a strong sense of the duty given to every person who would honor God, Paul attaches this essential doorway of commitment to a "hinge" in the form of a phrase: "in view of God's mercy." In essence, the principle of offering one's body as a living sacrifice is, first of all, connected with a perspective. The motivation to do God's will is somehow connected to the grace of being able to "see" more of Who He is and more of what He has already done for us. To the writer of Romans, the best way to strengthen our commitment is to improve our view.
As long as I continue to journey on the outskirts, the view is too manageable to ever be marvelous, too scaled down to ever be truly significant. From a distance, no wonder is ever too wonderful, no power too powerful, no master ever too masterful.
Many choose to view God in such a manner. Distant. Observable. Manageable. Close enough to consider. Distant enough to never impose nor interfere. Gail MacDonald has said, "Today we have large thoughts about man and small thoughts about God."
The Deep End of the Pool
Just prior to this paramount verse in Romans, Paul draws our attention to his own vivid view of the mercy of God. Since the verse just cited begins with the word "therefore" it, of course, implies that the writer is collecting the essence of the material he has just presented which serves to build the case he is now stating. Looking back at the verses just preceding actually reveals much of Paul's own vivid "view" of God and of His vast provisions. His view is expansive, to say the least. It includes a strong sense of the fathomless riches of God's wisdom and knowledge, his unsearchable judgements, his unmappable pathways, his inexhaustible mind, his invariable rightness, and his unlimited resources. Paul reveals himself as a man
obviously caught up in the depth of God's character and person. Read it for yourself:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
-- Romans 11:33-36
Clearly, Paul's view of God and his mercy was no distant image. Rather, there was a depth to his own awareness and experience in God. Take a closer look at what he said: "For from him and through him and to him are all things" (Romans 11:36). In other words, God is the origin ("from him"), the propulsion ("through him") and the destination ("to him") of life itself. These verses at the close of Romans 11 were clearly meant not just to be read and pondered, but experienced and searched out. They come on the heels of Paul's legal masterpiece, the first 10 chapters of this letter, in which he describes the fallen state of man, the resultant wrath of God, the faith of Abraham, the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross, and overcoming sin by living in the power of God's Spirit. Coming out of these heavily doctrinal issues, Paul proceeds to invite us into the deep end of the pool. He beckons us from the water-temperature-testing exercises of weighing insights and calls us to ponder no longer, but to plunge -- to experience God, to surrender our lives -- and in the real responsibilities of life, to devote our very bodies to His service.
Between My Two Fingers
Enjoying lunch while sitting atop the 143,300 tons of reinforced concrete that make up the CN Tower, my wife and I took our time while celebrating our honeymoon at the revolving Sky Pod Restaurant. We were determined to savor every morsel of an incredible lunch and to give our senses ample time to absorb the vivid panorama of this beautiful city. As we ate lunch and, later, toured the structure, my mind reeled with wonderment over all that must have gone into creating this place. The dreaming. The imagining. The planning. The drawings. The countless calculations. The construction. It was such an undertaking. Such an impressive accomplishment. The more of it I pondered, the bigger it seemed and the smaller I felt. The more I considered its precision and its very presence, the more content I was to just stand still, to behold, and, for those moments, to simply be engulfed by it all.
As overwhelming as the tower was to me in those moments, there still existed in the back of my mind a thought of absolute contrast. It occurred to me that this same structure which now elicited my wonderment and seized my imagination, had just hours earlier (75 miles away to be exact) fit between my two fingers and done little more than spark a bit of intrigue. In much the same manner, it seems that we often want a God like that -- one that fits between our two fingers. You see, if you have a God who fits between your two fingers, you can place him wherever you want. You can move him out of your way whenever you want. A God that fits between your two fingers is accessible enough to be periodically admired, and yet small enough to be quickly placed out of sight when you just don't want to be bothered. Rather than having to fit ourselves into his world, his kingdom, his directives and values, this kind of God, instead, conveniently fits into ours.
The Gaze of the Soul
From a distance, perception is deceiving. A 1,800-foot-tall tower can turn into a toothpick I can twiddle between my fingers. Up close, however, the truth is made known. In fact, I am the "toothpick" by comparison when I see things as they really are. Distance distorts reality. Closeness has a way of confirming the truth.
A.W. Tozer defined faith as "the gaze of a soul upon a saving God." He further explained that by "its very nature [faith is] scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves -- blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do."
Intimacy with Jesus begins and ends with the view that we find through our faith in him. The Lord not only wants to help us walk uprightly, he desires to help us see fully and brightly.
The invitation is clear. Faith is not some moral adrenaline which we force into action by gritting our teeth and trying hard to look holier. It is a fountain of God-confidence which flows from our souls as we become less concerned about ourselves and more aware to the greatness of the God we serve. A god that fits between our two fingers will never inspire genuine faith within us. However, as soon as our eyes are opened and we begin to see with our souls the God who is "great" and only "greatly to be praised," faith will flow, and the view will be like nothing we've ever seen.
This is an excerpt by a book by Robert Crosby: 'More Than A Savior: When Jesus Calls You "Friend".'
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