Chapter 4 of AWE: Why it Matters for Everything We Think, Say, & Do by Paul David Tripp
A Review by Pastor Aaron Adame
“When we replace vertical awe of God with awe of self, bad things happen in the horizontal community.”
I recently watched the new Disney movie Soul. In the story, the main character is passionate about playing jazz piano—it is, what he believes to be, his purpose. And after landing the gig of his life, he suddenly passes away. And the entire movie is the story of the man’s soul trying to get back to earth so that he can fulfill his destiny of playing this gig. And as he does so, he uses another soul (named 22) to get what he wants, even to the point of sacrificing the discovery of her purpose in order that he might fulfill his.
But there is one scene that is quite revealing (spoiler alert)—his soul does return to his body, he does play the gig—and it was amazing! However, when it was over, and when he walked out of the jazz club, he felt empty. Emptier than he had before. And he told the other player, “I just thought it would feel different.”
The man was chasing awe (like we all do), and when he finally got what he believed would satisfy his purpose and longing, it left him even emptier. Ironically, this is a heathen Disney movie without any reference for God, and yet, in this sense, the movie is theologically correct: People chase purpose and awe in self-gratifying pursuits, but in the end, they’re just as lost and even emptier than they were before.
In chapter 4, Tripp tightens the screws, it seems, on a topic he has only touched on in previous chapters, which is the idea that “awe-wrongedness” happens when we replace awe of God with awe of other things. To this, Tripp concludes that the supreme “other” that our awe turns to is self (56).
Tripp also points out the argument Paul is making in Romans 1 when he writes that people, in our fallen condition living apart from God, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They have exchanged the glory of God for the glory of self and their own appetites and desires. From this diagnosis, Paul concludes that people who have exchanged God for the god of self are actually debased in their thinking and, therefore, do all kinds of debased acts, both to themselves and other people.
Just like the character in Soul, not only did his debased pursuit of awe leave him feeling emptier than before, it hurt everyone around him, especially 22. Again, Tripp writes, “when we replace vertical awe of God with awe of self, bad things happen in the horizontal community” (56).
So how can someone know when there is awe-replacement happening in their soul? Tripp gives us a few hints in the chapter. The one I will mention is the first one:
Your emotional life is always a window into what has captured your awe (59).
If you really spent time assessing what makes you happy, or what causes the sudden onset of anger or flight, you may be able to see what you are replacing awe of God with. If it’s money, making or losing money will affect your emotional state. If it’s recognition, when you don’t get the pat on the back you think you deserve, unattractive emotions occur.
But when your awe is overtaken by the goodness and grace of God, along with His presence in your life, the whole world as you know it could crumble, but your emotional state will rest in Him.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of replacement going on in our lives, more than we realize or would like to admit. We are quick to be critical of those whom Paul describes in Romans 1 as having replaced the truth for a lie, and yet, people do this every day—even Christians!
When Christians saturate their minds with more secular news than God’s Word, we have replaced the truth for a lie. When we exchange the community of the church gathered for the virtual option as a long-term plan, unfortunate and unintended things happen in that person’s life and in the community of faith (and the community outside the church).
But here’s the good news—news that should help us reorient our lives back to an awe of God—though there is a strong temptation and often occurrence of awe-replacement from us, Jesus came into this world in exchange and as a replacement for you and me. When Jesus gave His life on the cross, He did so in our place. He exchanged His glory that was His from the beginning and took on human form (Phil 2). And for those who have placed their faith in Him, He has exchanged their destiny from lost to found, from darkness to light, from awe-wrongedness to an awe-correctness.
And because of what He has done for us, we can now live in awe of His goodness and grace because our eyes have been opened. Unlike that character in Soul, through Christ we have found our true purpose. And it isn’t in the things we do, the titles we hold, or in the achievements we earn, but in the value Jesus placed on us when He exchanged His life for ours.
The character in the movie Soul sought awe through playing jazz piano. And because of his awe-wrongedness, he hurt and alienated everyone around him. Can you identify any of these misdirected awe pursuits in your life? If you can, confess those to God and ask Him to help you replace that with awe of Him.
How does the great exchange of the crucifixion impact the way you approach God and the way you live every day?
How have you seen both a wrong and correct pursuit of awe affect others, not just the individual?