Recovering “Oh!” In Gospel Proclamation

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

The word “Oh” is short, but weighty. Have you SONY DSCthought about it?

It carries many connotations. “Oh” is sometimes a way of communicating surprise, for example. A waiter informs us they no longer offer a certain meal. A boss lets us know that company policies have changed. Whatever news we are presented with stands in contrast to our presuppositions.

“Oh?”

“Oh” can also be an expression of disappointment or frustration. Sometimes we are presented with news that not only is different, but also not good. Our plans have been changed. We didn’t get the raise, after all. Our car won’t start.

“Oh…” (I’m not responsible for what follows those ellipses).

But perhaps the most powerful and significant instance of “Oh” in our vocabulary is when it is arousing awe in us. I said “Oh” at the summit of Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park, 1250′ in the air and surrounded by a beautiful scene. Maybe you have used “oh” in looking at the night sky. Perhaps it was the vastness of a rural cornfield, the beauty of a musical performance, the incredible performance of an athlete.

“Oh!”

What make these things so awesome? It is the feeling that when you stand atop a mountain, you can see everything, and yet, no matter how long you look, you will never see it all. It is the realization that while every single star looks like a peaceful speck in the black canvas, each one is a roaring and violent ball of gas, many of which are bigger than Earth itself. It is recognizing that even though your ten fingers are the same exact shape and size and have the same capability as the pianist’s, you could never replicate what she is doing. Bigness, fear, grandeur.

I worry that as Christians, our perception of the gospel has become like a flat soda. It has been exposed to us too long. It has lost its effervescence in our lives. It’s old hat, same song, has-been news. We need “Oh!” again.

It is not as if this is the fault of the gospel. The gospel itself doesn’t need to be doctored up and and improved upon; we simply need to rub the glaze out of our eyes and see its glory again. We need to wake up. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1). It is not as though the light is too dim, but we are too sleepy! A healthy understanding of the gospel’s depth cannot be met with blank stares or folded hands. It drives us to the ecstasy of “Oh!”

We need “Oh!” in our preaching. I am convinced this is one of the key places we begin to recover “Oh!” If our preachers detour the audience from the gospel, or present the gospel as a textbook or a mere list of rules, our awe begins to fade. Every single sermon should remind us of the beauty of the good news, the glory of Christ, the depths of the riches of the wisdom of God. If this task isn’t accomplished, why bother? A great barometer for how we are creating God-centered “Oh!” by our preaching is to ask ourselves what Will Willimon asked: “Would Jesus have to be crucified to make this sermon work?”

We need “Oh!” in our Bible study. It doesn’t matter if you’re in 2 Samuel or 2 Corinthians, every verse of Scripture is telling the same story, that “God in Christ was reconciling the world” (2 Cor. 5:19) and “making himself a name” among his people (2 Sam. 7:23). I know it’s hard to pull out insights and marvel at the likes of books like Leviticus. But I promise you, the more familiar you become with God’s Word, the easier it becomes. Biblical writers like Paul and David couldn’t contain themselves from writing “Oh!” Hang on that word next time you see it instead of skipping over it (see Psalm 34 for example). You can read a passage 100 times and see something profoundly new when you have a sense of its weightiness and awe. It simply takes immersing ourselves in it, waiting on the Spirit to reveal his truth to us, and delighting in his Word at every turn. Psalm 119 is the “Oh!” of delighting in the Word. Start here, and let it propel us into a love for God’s Word.

We need “Oh!” in our worship. This one can be a bit tricky. Our worship should not be built on a foundation of feeling. And to suggest that the only authentic worship is worship that is easily noticeable is narrow-minded. Nevertheless, when we come into church on Sunday morning, for example, we have the privilege to celebrate the joys of our big God and his grand gospel. Celebrate! Maybe for you that is clapping or raising your hands, or letting the tears flow. The action is not indicative of the heart; the point is, to reclaim “Oh!” in our worship, we have to put aside distractions and worries and give God the praise he deserves, whatever that looks like for you.

We need “Oh!” in every square inch. We often think of “worship” as consisting of singing, Scripture reading, and prayer. Certainly, they are included. But worship is much broader. Worship takes our whole heart, and therefore, all of our joys and passions and loves, into consideration. This means that even when we go on a hike with our family, or sit around the table for a normal Thursday night meal, we can do it all with a sense of God’s goodness, and His glory. Paint, watch birds, write, share coffee with a friend, camp, and make music with a sense of awe. As Lewis says, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I can’t say it better than A.W. Pink. “Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.” Let’s say “Oh!” more. The God who is there is glorious, and his good news is grand; now it is our turn to observe, wonder, and delight.

 

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