“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2:43).
Luke wrote, “A heart of fear arose in everyone;” not a sense of foreboding dread, but of reverent wonder. The difference between awe and dread is that awe carries a sense of love. Much like the idea of the disciples devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42), they also continued in a sense of delightful amazement at the glory and majesty of Christ. Many of those who had earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!” now humbly worshipped Jesus as Lord.
Watching the news today, we see a whole lotta hatin’ goin’ on. Hatred, rage, bigotry, violence, and division fill the media, but it’s nothing new. People have been at each other’s throats since Adam and Eve squandered their innocence in the garden. A single generation later and their son, Cain, killed his brother, Abel, in a jealous rage.
Hate is the ubiquitous human experience. It almost defines what it means to be human. We all have peeves, jealousies, bitterness, and rivalries. Every one of us finds someone to be irritating. We all despise, belittle, and vilify someone. We feel good about ourselves when we taste the blood of our opponents. Demeaning someone else raises our own sense of self-worth and gives us a purpose for which to live. It’s such a part of who we are that we develop games and sports around the idea of defeating the enemy. Competition is normal to us. It gives us significance. Without it, we’re empty.
Such is the nature and evidence of sin. We hate because it’s in our nature to do so. Our hatred demonstrates the condition of our hearts, which the Bible says is spiritually dead apart from Christ (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13). On our own, we’re cut off from God and stand condemned, deserving His just wrath: “The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
Like Cain, we’ve all gone out from the presence of the Lord. Outside of Christ, we’re morally destitute and spiritually bankrupt. Our depraved minds crave more and greater sins continually. We hunger for hate in every morose form.
There is a way out, and only one way – we have to die. To die to our sins, we must live to Christ. To live to Christ, we must be born again; that is, we have to be born of God. He has to remove our stony, sin-addicted heart and give us a new heart that beats with the love and grace of God. Without it, we’ll never see the kingdom of God.
Trouble is, in our flesh, we’re dead. The dead don’t want anything. The dead don’t believe anything. The dead will never change anything, either. The Holy Spirit has to change our hearts. We don’t have to understand what He does or how, we just need to know that when we begin to hunger and thirst for the things of God, it’s because the Spirit is at work in us.
How can we be saved from the wrath to come? Scripture says simply to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve said it before; saving faith isn’t just holding an opinion or thinking that Jesus is real. It’s loving Him as He truly is – as Savior and Lord. If your hate troubles you, that may well mark the Spirit’s work in your life. Sensing a newfound love for Christ is a strong indication of the Spirit’s operation within you.
One of the hallmarks of the genuine Christian experience is an abiding sense of awe in the presence of the Lord. The merely religious eagerly manufacture rituals and symbols that, in fact, supplant the worship of God. Genuine disciples of Jesus Christ have no need for artificial devices to give them a sense of wonder as they worship God.
I pray that you too will abide in the wonder of His love. If you struggle with questions and doubts, cry out to God. Call upon Him and don’t stop calling until He gives you the full assurance of His saving grace in Jesus Christ.