Being in the process of becoming

Last time I wrote, I quoted Kierkegaard on the fear of the Lord. This time I want to pick up an idea which was embedded within that and expend it.

Kierkegaard instructs his readers to be in fear of the Lord because one is ‘in the process of becoming’. As if, when one is aware of being in this state, the natural response would be fear and trembling before the Lord.

The question one must ask is why. Why would that be the natural response?

For instance think of a child and the love that child has for a parent. That child is in a state of becoming. It’s apparent to everybody that the child is growing and changing. The child is in the process of becoming an adult. Yet the child, if the parents are good, will not fear mother or father but will love them. Of course life is often a little more complicated than that, but in general we see that a child’s response to a parent is love.

I think children are a great demonstration of what it means to be in the process of becoming.

I forget most of the time. When one lives in the moment, with no future or past reference point, it is easy to presume too much of my estate. That is to say, to assume I have far more control of my existence than I do in reality. So, why should I fear? What does trembling profit me? I am the highest authority in my life, and that’s the way it is.

But what if I lived as though I was ‘becoming’? As it is, I live as if I am. I am not, but I live as though I am. One of the greatest confessions of the Bible, found in Exodus 3:14, is God’s own identity: I AM WHO I AM.

God is not in the process of becoming; he simply ‘is’. I change day-to-day and week to week.

In my view, the Biblical writers had a firm grasp of this notion.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

In fact, James goes further and says that ‘all such boasting is evil.’

It is the fact that I am grass, a vapour, which causes me to tremble with fear. I am fragile and ought to hold this in remembrance. I ought to fear him because like the mist, I am gone with slightest gust of wind. I ought to tremble because like the grass, the heat of the sun will burn me up. And there is nothing I can do to change that.

Does this change my life? It ought to.

Will it? Probably not.

Kierkegaard insists that this is evidence for God. I understand that to mean the proof that one knows God. That God can only be proved by being known and he can only be known by being encountered.

I hope that tomorrow, I will know God better than I do today.

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13 Comments

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  1. I am growing in knowledge and love of my Father every day – BUT I am not in the process of “becoming” – I already AM a New Creation – All Glory to God.

    I praise the Lord that my self worth security and safety is in Christ. I am daily seeking to be transformed in my soul and flesh so that they become more in line with my already new spirit, by renewing my mind – but at every point I feel secure because I know I am truly and perfectly loved – if I live I live for Christ and he is with me every inch of the way every day of my life – if I die I get to be with Christ face to face – hallelujah – I don’t have to fear – I have been shown perfect love. Hallelujah – I am not my own but Christs’ – what a wonderful God I serve Amen.

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  2. I shall quote Paul, from Philippians 2……as observed on the previous blog comments Peter viewed this as inspired…using the Amplified Bible translation, as there is a lot in the original language we Anglo Saxons can miss out on

    “”So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] stregthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the (Holy) Spirit [we share] and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy,
    fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.
    Do nothing from factional motives – through contentiousness, strife, selfishness or for unworthy ends – or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself – thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves. “”

    thats verses 1 to 3.

    Beverly, there are 16 ‘I’ references and 8 ‘my or me’ references in your short comment above. Which leaves nobody in any doubt where you are focussing. This seems to me, to run counter to the central message of verses 1 to 3.

    verses 4 to 9 of Philippians shows us just how much Jesus emptied himself and even abased himself…for us……….. not “eagerly retaining or grasping” his status with God.

    and finally for this comment, verse 12 of the same chapter

    “” Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out – cultivate, carry out to the goal and fully complete – your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling [self -distrust, that is, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation; timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ]. “”

    This seems to agree much more with Ian’s recent blogging to me? The ‘therefore’ in v12 comes after Paul has outlined why – because Christ humbled and abased Himself.

    I share the ‘perfect love drives out fear’ faith but also accept the ‘self distrust and work out your faith in fear and trembling’ faith.
    This is a paradox: its because my earthly self is so far from perfect: because I limit God with my actions and thoughts. Its only the (sadly few) times I manage to let God to work in me without limiting Him I fully feel the perfect love…otherwise I’m in some shade of trembling or self-distrust even if I can’t see it at the time.

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  3. Indeed Christian faith is a paradox. There exists a tension between who we are becoming and what we have made of ourselves. I hadn’t actually drawn the link between Kierkegaard’s notion and the Philippians verse. Seems obvious now.

    However I don’t think the ‘process of becoming’ refers to an exclusively Christian life. Everyone is in the process of becoming. The question is… what?

    In fear and trembling I am acknowledging that my ‘becoming’ is directed by God and is fully in his power. If I weren’t trembling, I would still be becoming.

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  4. I struggle with how I could have expressed my experience without reference to “I” – Ian in his intro above finds the same need to frequent reference to “I” when explaining why he writes this website. Whether you believe me or not (and frankly this does not concern me – the Lord knows my heart and the Lord does not condemn me because he tells me that in his Word) – my also frequent reference to praising the Lord and glorifying God is genuine – everything I do I do for Him. My life is hidden in his. Without him I am nothing – but praise His holy name I am not without him.

    Colossians 1 v 9 to 12 – is my prayer for myself, for you Ian for you Mike and even for you Ben. We serve a marvelous God who has already made available through His grace more that we could ever ask or think – according to the power at work in us. I look forward through my study of His Word to gaining more and more spiritual wisdom and guidance to apply the spiritual laws which lead to perfect peace and fullness of joy.

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  5. Hey Ian! I tried to read the previous post’s comments.. and got information overload, so sorry if I’m on repeat.

    I got kinda confused in the earthly father and God comparison:

    fear and trembling before the Lord.
    The question one must ask is why. Why would that be the natural response?
    For instance think of a child and the love that child has for a parent. That child is in a state of becoming.

    If i stay in this thought pattern, than my aim as my father’s child is to be eventually to the place of everytime i’m around my father, if he really loves me and I him, then i would be in fear and tremble everytime i’m around him, conversate with him, or think of him… what a STRESSFUL situation.

    1 John 4:17-19 (English Standard Version)
    17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

    I understand, I think, where you’re coming from about the phillipians passage concerning fear and trembling, but I come to this passage and realize that he Loves us, and hopefully we Love him, and if He loves us, we should not Fear because we then fear being punished. And he Perfectly Loves us.

    How do these two co-exist? Well, what I come to believe is that fear and trembling comes around to us working out our faith. But to Live in fear, that I believe, reduces God’s love and grace in our lives. Does that mean to sin to our enjoyment? NO, far be it! But, to come to realize there is grace, and “i’m drowning in it”.

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  6. Fair point, Ricky. Yes, we have no reason to fear judgement but I don’t think that means we must not be in ‘fear of the Lord.’ Fear and trembling is a natural response to God. I used the parenthood analogy to contrast – sorry I was not clear.

    In other words, if we understand God as father then there seems no reason to fear. But God’s relationship with us is more than ‘father’.

    Hope that helps.

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  7. Well written Rick Amen. Ian – listen to Rick. Ian your final paragraph is in error. As a believer God is our Father – and that is above every other thing. The only thing in the new testament we are told to be in fear of – is making sure we endure to the end. Our adoption into the family is assured (provided we choose to continue in it) so God’s relationship with us is not “more” than father – Father is the ultimate relationship. God is love – the only reason to fear is that we may not spend eternity with him. Know the truth Ian, the truth will set you free.

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  8. Yes, I am well aware of the parenthood and adoption analogy found in the New Testament. That was something Jesus expounded greatly upon, though I’ve read hints of that relationship in Isaiah. I must protest however. Of course God is more than ‘father’ to us. ‘Father’ is but one of so many names the Biblical writers call God and I think each name instructs us to relate to him in a different way. For example, he is Saviour; Healer; Shelter; Warrior; Judge; Law giver and so on.

    Ricky and you are right that there is no reason to fear judgement, but that’s not the whole idea of the ‘fear of the Lord’. There is more to it than that.

    Whilst on the one hand a believer can be comforted that God is our father and he takes care of us, they ought to also remember that he is the creator of the heavens and the earth with all power and majesty. Remember God’s discourse with Job? (Job 38-42)

    “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
    Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
    when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
    (Job 38:4-7 ESV)

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  9. What did Jesus call God – Father…… what did he instruct us his disciples to call God – Father – did Jesus refer to God’s other names as being more important that that of Father? I don’t find that in scripture. Amen God is all the things you mention – but above all he is my Father – that is why I am given permission through Jesus to enter Boldly – I don’t have to be like old testament saints who werent’ even allowed into the HOly of Holies. Because of what Jesus has done I am a child of God. Your earthly father has many roles outside of being a parent – but which is the most important in connection with his relationship with you? That of Father. It matters little to you if your dad is top of his field, very important, prime minister of england or whatever – you approach him always as Father – aware of all his other titles (as you grow – not when you were a baby) but always and only you approach him as your Father – that is the bible’s message to us as followers of Jesus – and if it was good enough for Jesus – it’s good enough for me.

    Your writings sound so cold and unengaged in the wonderful fantastic reality of having God as your father – they read like an intellectual debate not a relational reality. I am assuming this is because of your feelings of being distant from God.

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  10. Hey Ian, I think I can understand where you’re coming from a little more than others on the whole Father/God thing. It’s something I’ve struggled with for awhile, and still have difficulty with at times.

    A few points that may or may not help are… the whole fear thing? I see this more as a deep awe and reverence at the might and supreme will of our Lord. It’s still fear, but not the bad kind, iyswim?

    Also – God gets it. He understands that we have completely messed up views of what a Father is/should be, and I really don’t think that you HAVE to relate to God directly one-on-one in a perfect Father/Son relationship per se to be His. He chose you. Nothing you do will ever change that. It’s like an adopted child may find it hard to relate to their adoptive parent, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t total love there, and complete thankfulness from the child. I don’t know if that helps.

    Lastly, intelligent people throughout the ages have found endless fascination in all of the different facets of God, His Word, the History of His people and all of the ideas surrounding that. Countless books have been written, debates had, and dreamers praying into the night marvelling at God’s immense creation and the beauty that He has woven into the human mind in spite of sin.

    Ian, you are one of these dreamers – a poet, a thinker, someone who just HAS to thrash these things out, and God made you that way. God is the original creator and thinker, it’s only right his children inherit these attributes. Don’t let anyone take that from you or try to call it cold or unengaged – provided that you pray to always Glorify God in all that you do. And I knoe you do. And I know you feel so keenly the pain when you fall short, and that’s TOTALLY Biblical. Not heretical self-worship and sing-song joy, but real, acute pain at your own sinfulness and the state of the fallen world. Remember, even Jesus wept at that.

    God bless you, brother.

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    • It’s almost tempting to despair that one cannot perfectly think of God, or perfectly worship him as if we must be taunted that the Fall robbed so much of us. Grace comforts because, in God’s economy, my foolish writing and thinking is pleasing in his sight.

      I do hope the Separation will reach it’s end, soon.

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  11. “God can only be proved by being known and he can only be known by being encountered.”

    What a quote, I love it, (sorry to distract the fierce debate with a tangent). Is it one of your own? I might steal it some day.

    Grace & Peace Bro.

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