Amazement is a good word to describe the common experience of the early Christians. Something new happened in history regarding the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and it was truly amazing. It had started out rather inconspicuously with John the Baptist preaching to the remnant of Israel far away from the large cities. He then introduced Jesus who had been born in a manger, raised in a small country town, and began his ministry hanging with common men like fishermen. But the tension built as the religious leaders became jealous and tried to eliminate him. Finally, he confronted Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas before his crucifixion, then was resurrected on the first day of the week. After that, the disciples were constantly amazed at what they saw and experienced.
A new creation was introduced in his resurrection. It had been expected since the original Garden of Eden was cursed in Adam’s fall. The Jews believed that one day God would invade history with his kingdom, but they thought it was probably a long time off and that it would look a lot like Rome when it invaded other empires. They were still convinced that Jesus was not what they had been promised. But the disciples of Jesus were daily amazed. Lives were being transformed. Some were healed. Demons were cast out. Governments were afraid. The apostles’ preaching was accompanied by miracles of all types. Truly heaven and earth had come together. The atmosphere was filled with expectation and believers were willing to not only give everything they had to meet human needs, they also were willing to die for their faith.
What happened to that amazement? Some biblical scholars have concluded that God withdrew his miraculous power after the original apostles died and the canon of scripture was completed. But that is conjecture and is contradicted by the continuation of amazing phenomena in some places throughout history. A better explanation is that we have been willing to settle for amusement instead of amazement.
It would be wrong to speak of amusement in such a way without giving credit to Neil Postman’s classic, Amusing Ourselves To Death. He references both George Orwell’s epic, 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Orwell was concerned that a big brother totalitarianism would take away our books and inflict pain. Huxley was concerned that we would become so trivialized with amusement that we wouldn’t read, and that we would be crippled by pleasure, not pain. Postman warned that Huxley’s view was right, and he was dead on.
We have been trained by TV and subsequent entertainment outlets to get our information in shallow spoonfuls. We are inundated with information that we have no intention of interacting with. Attention spans shrink every year, crippling our ability to think through issues that concern us or our society.
Sadly, Sunday morning church has been affected by the amusement bug. We like to be entertained and we won’t stay engaged with any part of the worship service that lasts more than around seven minutes. Church leaders are left trying to instill a theological foundation in the congregants while they entertain them with a spoonful of Bible truth. A telling survey reveals that many pastors don’t read books, whether electronic or paper. Even worse, many church leaders confess that they don’t read the Bible except for single texts for their sermons.
It is no wonder that thousands of people who have been born of the imperishable seed of God’s word are starving for nourishment. They have been amused almost to death, but are void of amazement. However, many have begun to cry out for the same life that is depicted in the New Testament. God is responding to their cry. The good news that the king has come and a new day has dawned is being proclaimed and heard. People who have been sedated with amusement are awaking to the amazement of living as God’s new creation people now. They are coming to know Jesus as the Lord who reigns over all that he purchased. Like the early believers, they expect the miraculous when heaven and earth meet. Look how they prayed.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
We are invited to live with the same Lord in a similar society. He is still amazing. Let’s look away from our amusement to the one our hearts long to know. God is working all around us and in us. We have been distracted, but it is time to open our eyes and see what great things he has done and is still doing.
Dudley Hall is the author of Grace Works and the founder of Kerygma Ventures. He joins James and Betty this week on LIFE TODAY to talk more about “Living Amazed.” Copyright ©2017 by Dudley Hall. Used by permission.