I am captivated by extreme skiing. I have skied my fair share of steep mountains, but when I watch skiers bomb through a narrow chute from the top of a mountain, or ride off the edge of a 30 foot rocky cliff I become memorized by what these people do. The courage it takes to point your skis down the mountain. The trust in your ability to hold an edge on a 50+ degree slope. The reckless abandon necessary to launch yourself in the air. All of this captivates me.
There is a big difference between being captivated by what someone can do, and by being captivated by someone. I am captivated by what these skiers do. But I have never once been captivated by them. What I mean is, I have never sat and watched footage of a guy bombing through a chute and thought, “I wonder what makes him tick?” “I wonder what drives life?” “I wonder if his parents loved him?” “I wonder how he treats others?” These questions never enter my mind. And the reason is simple, I’m not very interested in the person, I’m interested in what the person can do.
So here’s the question for us Christians, “Are we captivated by God, or are we captivated by what God can do?”
If we were able to get very honest with ourselves, I think many of us would have to admit we are more interested by what God can do than in God himself. We are taken by the idea that God can save us, but we aren’t so taken about what that says about God. We are in awe of God’s power, but aren’t interested in learning why he uses it the way he does. We love that God saves us, but don’t really care about knowing him.
I think of the quote by John Owen. “O to behold the glory of Christ. . .Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections. . .until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.” I don’t know that I have come across an expression of deeper longing for Christ himself outside of the psalms. Owens quote forces me to examine myself. Am I more captivated by God himself, or what God can do. This can be measured if we use the quote. “Until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing.” What Owen is saying is that he desires his longing for God to be greater than anything here in this life, no matter how good those things are. So when I examine my life, has my family, my success, my friendships, my house, my experiences, my sitting on the back deck watching a summer storm roll in, my standing on a mountain top, my enjoying a glass of wine become a dead and deformed thing in comparison to knowing Jesus more intimately.
Let’s be clear, those things are not bad. In fact they are very good. Blessings given by God to be enjoyed. But they are not better than him. And to be captivated by them is to be captivated by what God can do for me and not be captivated by God.
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.