Discover a Life
Marked by the Awe of Jesus
It is often said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” However, not so with Jesus. Rather, “familiarity breeds craving”—craving to see even more of his glory.
A traditional hymn, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” contains these prayerful words to God’s Son: “Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.” However, that’s not really the way it works for believers. When the Holy Spirit feeds us with fresh encounters of the wonders of our Savior, he keeps making us hungrier and hungrier for a whole lot more of Jesus!
Why? It’s because the better we know Christ, the more amazed we become with him. In turn, our lives become increasingly marked with the “awe of Jesus.” That, I should point out, is the most thrilling prospect about what lies ahead of us for eternal ages to come.
So, let’s talk a little about AWE.
When was the last time you had the experience of awe? Watching a trapeze artist risking everything above the big top? Absorbing a glorious fall sunset over the Rocky Mountains? Holding a newborn baby? Meeting your favorite movie star and getting their autograph?
The dictionary has two useful definitions for awe: (1) Awe is a feeling of great respect, sometimes mixed with fear or surprise. ›“The children were awed by the strength of their grandfather.” (2) Awe is the feeling you have when you are captivated with total admiration for someone or something. “I’m in awe of her sacrificial work among the poor.”
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein titled “Find Awe in Everyday Life” takes us further. It concludes that the greatest source of awe comes out of relationships. Bernstein writes (emphasis added):
We’re living through trying times. Almost every day, it seems, we’re presented with new evidence of how annoying, inconsiderate, and downright awful others can be—the people who let the door slam in your face or the ones who put their speakerphones on in public.
So it’s easy to forget that PEOPLE CAN BE AWESOME, too.
Awe is that feeling we get when something is so vast it stops us in our tracks . . . challenges and expands our thinking. Most of us associate awe with something rare and beautiful. But PEOPLE can trigger awe, too . . . Psychologists call this interpersonal awe.
From there, the main thrust of her essay is that the best experience of awe we ever enjoy arises out of our relationships with other human beings—like walking your beautifully adorned daughter down the aisle at her wedding or gazing over Zoom at the face of a close friend you’ve not seen for ten years.
Person-to-person awe is our destiny.
This valuable insight takes us straight to the biblical perspective because the Bible teaches that the primary trigger for our being overwhelmed with wonder comes from our relationship with the living God. Consider these examples (emphasis added):
- “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods . . . AWESOME in glorious deeds, doing wonders (Exodus 15:11).
- “Afterward, the people of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come with AWE to the Lord and to his goodness” (Hosea 3:5).
- “The whole earth is filled with AWE at your wonders . . . you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8).
- “Surely God is in this place. How AWESOME is this place. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).
But nothing compares to the awe that arises among God’s people when Jehovah, the one who generated all the shock and stupefaction manifested in the Old Testament encounters, “took on flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1).
Have you noticed how awe was a central response to Jesus’ earthly ministry by both his friends and enemies? Consider these examples (emphasis added):
- “They were all struck with ASTONISHMENT and began glorifying God; and they were FILLED WITH FEAR, saying, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’” (Luke 5:26).
- “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus . . . were terribly frightened and filled with AWE, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:54).
Awe is what Peter and the others experienced when Jesus was transfigured before them, revealing his inherent glory as almighty God, which caused them to suggest building monuments because “Peter did not know what else to say.” And so “they fell to the ground, terrified” (Matthew 17).
Awe is what caused the disciples to respond in the confusing way they did when Jesus met with them in his resurrection majesty to commission their future mission for him. We’re told a mixture of joy and excitement was woven with astonishment and even disbelief (Matthew 28). It suggests some of them might have been saying, “This is too wonderful to be true! Too wonderful to endure.”
On the day of Pentecost, look at what happened when, from the throne of heaven to which he had ascended just ten days earlier, Jesus poured out the Spirit of God on 120 of his followers as he had promised he would do. Suddenly, this deeper encounter with their reigning Savior caused them to burst out of that upper room—every one of them so overwhelmed by the experience that all of them started proclaiming the “mighty works of God.” In other words, they kept declaring how awed they were with Jesus and the great salvation God had accomplished through him. You might say they were saturated with awe (Acts 2).
However, this became a way of life for all the thousands who believed the gospel that day as they formed the early church. We read in Acts 2:43 (emphasis added): “Everyone kept feeling a sense of AWE, and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.”
Since then, the awe the early Church experienced has become the hallmark and the way of life for Christians everywhere who become wholly alive to the whole vision of the whole Christ. As it was at the beginning, so it should be today. Believers today must be open to experiencing anew every day—as the dictionary definition of “awe” expresses—”great respect, sometimes mixed with fear or surprise” over new insights we’re discovering about our Lord Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we should want to be—and expect to be—increasingly captivated with a growing admiration for all he is today.
This daily reality is not simply reserved for apostles like Paul in his awesome face-to-face meeting with the enthroned Jesus on the Damascus Road that propelled his decades of sacrificial service to the Savior (Acts 9). It is not meant only for faithful pastors like John, who endured such a breathtaking reintroduction to Jesus in his ascended glory that it caused him to fall before his Lord “like a dead man.” A life of awe in Jesus is God’s will for all Jesus followers.
Hebrews 12 challenges every disciple living under the daily reign of our Redeemer, especially during times of persecution, to hold fast to God’s grace and to live for his redeeming purposes in Christ Jesus “with reverence and awe.”
Maybe more than any other epistle, Paul outlines in Philippians what a consistently closer walk with Jesus should look like: “I count everything as loss that I may win Christ . . . be found in him . . . know him . . . lay hold of everything for which he has laid hold of me.” He makes it clear that our salvation is, above all, a very personal, intimate transaction between ourselves and our Savior. Fundamentally, it is a relationship with the Lord of Glory.
That’s why he concludes in chapter 2 that each of us must “work out [our] salvation”—meaning our moment-by-moment relationship with Jesus—“with awe and reverence.”
The more you see, the more you seek
—and the more you become stupefied with Jesus!
Stupefied! What a great synonym for being in awe! Literally, it means dumbfounded, dumbstruck, flabbergasted, thunderstruck, utterly surprised, taken unawares suddenly, or feeling astonishment.
I propose this as a primary definition of a true Jesus follower: Someone who continues, day by day, to be stupefied by God’s Son.
Can this happen to you? Great news! This is precisely why the Spirit of God has been sent into your life—to glorify Jesus and make much of him to you. When the Bible talks about our being filled with the Spirit, it means we are being filled with the presence and power of Christ. And to be filled with Christ—who is “the glory of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1)—is to be marked by a life of awe.
Even though we do not physically see him yet (What a day that will be! Talk about AWE!), Peter reminds us that we can still, moment by moment, be consumed with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1), every day between now and then.
Where and how can you start building awe into your walk with Jesus? Of course, you’ll expect me to give you this answer—so here it is:
Visit ChristNow.com. Pick from one of the hundreds of free resources, all designed to “wow” you with some facet of the magnificence of who the Lord Jesus Christ is today. Use it to get started knowing and growing in him, going deeper into him, step by step, day by day. Let HIM develop a relationship with you that will make every day “wonder-filled”—as you discover more about who he is, where he’s headed, what he’s doing, and how exalted he already is.
Maybe launch into the “21-Day Journey Into More of Christ,” video clips that introduce you to the Master a little bit more each day.
Or why not join me every Monday through Friday for my 15-minute Daily CHRIST TODAY Podcast with David Bryant. It’s free and available wherever you get your podcasts. Walk with me for a couple of weeks as I pour more of Christ into you and see what happens. You can also listen HERE.
Discover AWE in Jesus at the ends of the earth
Years ago, when I was in graduate school, a group of us formed a fellowship we called AWE, which stood for “Associates in World Evangelization.” We helped each other learn about, pray for, and prepare to be involved in advances of the gospel going on in many nations.
The most important impact on our lives, however, was not what we expected. For sure, we did learn and pray and prepare. But above all and before all, we became marked with awe in Jesus as we uncovered more and more of the victories Jesus was achieving in all parts of the earth at that very moment and how his saving reign was advancing powerfully in so many amazingly transforming ways.
This still happens to me today as I continue to monitor global developments in the Church’s missionary enterprise. Just this fall, for example, the more I keep learning about the unprecedented Christ Awakening movement unfolding inside Ukraine despite all the bombs, blood, and suffering, I am overtaken with astonishment and praise every day as I witness the supremacy of God’s Son manifested more and more in and through it all.
Maybe that’s one place you can start growing a life marked by awe: Set about to discover larger dimensions of who Jesus is by witnessing his active reign in the gospel’s growing impact for his global cause.
There’s really no limit to what’s waiting for you to uncover!
And there’s no limit to how the thrill of your relationship with Jesus will grow as a result.
About the Author
Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular Daily CHRIST TODAY Podcast.