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Wonder and Awe [8-6-23]

August 6, 2023


“Wonder and Awe”

I learned something new this summer. I think it’s always good to learn something new. It’s what keeps one young.

I learned about the Dunning-Kruger effect. I knew the generalities of the principle but none of the specifics. Until now. You are in for a treat.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is defined as the tendency of people with low ability in a specific area to give overly positive assessments of this ability. In other words, people with low skill in a specific area overestimate their competence in that area. They see themselves as more skilled than they are.

The biggest misunderstanding of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that people

with above-average IQs don’t overestimate their knowledge and skills in areas where they really don’t have much knowledge or skill. It’s really about low performers overestimating their knowledge or skill versus actual outcome. To put it another way, Dunning-Kruger applies not to intelligence in general but to skills in specific tasks.

I often wonder if the rise of this effect is related to the almost cult-like obsession our culture has had with self-esteem over the past two generations. You know how it goes. Everyone is a winner. Everyone gets a trophy or a ribbon. You’re a second place winner or third place winner. Heck we’re all winners. You can do no wrong. And don’t forget how proud we are of you. Never mind what God’s Word says about the sin of pride. People say, “I’m proud of myself.” What does that even mean? A father says he’s very proud of an adult child who John Calvin would describe as a reprobate. Could these, and many more examples, be contributing factors to the Dunning-Kruger effect?

But pastor, you can’t be saying there’s something wrong with having high

self-esteem? Certainly God loves us and accepts us for who we are. God’s

love is unconditional, right?

Au contraire, buttercup.

Absolutely, God loves us. We read that over-and-over in the Bible. For God so loved the world…

Jesus Christ is the expression of God’s love for us. But never confuse God’s redeeming love for God’s unconditional love. God’s unconditional love hinges on the moment we confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. After that moment we can say God loves us for who we are and helps us grow into the kinds of people He calls us to be. Out of knowledge of being saved in Christ grows a desire to be like Jesus. To put it another way, God guides us to a position of ultimate holiness in Christ.

Here's something you might want to write down:



When we are living in Christ and for Christ, when God looks at us, He doesn’t see us for who we once were before Christ. God doesn’t see the old sinful self. Instead, as a new creation in Christ, when God looks at us, the first things He sees is the glory of His Son dying on the cross for us. That is the beautiful gift of salvation. The old has passed away…now God sees us as we have been renewed by the death of Jesus. So, yes, God’s love for us is conditional to what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Here's an observation by R.C. Sproul to help us pick-up where we left off last week:

“In all that we do, the driving passion of the Christian must always be Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be the glory.”

I cannot imagine a more unsafe place to be than to be an unsaved person who grossly overestimates their inherent goodness and their place in heaven if, as they might say, “heaven even exists.”

Let’s get back to Philippians 1:18-21:

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

What is Paul saying here? What is his great passion? What is the ultimate goal in how he lives his life? I hope it also applies to you and me…Paul’s passion in life is that Christ would be seen as supremely great. That’s why God created us and saved us…for us to see the glory of His Son and for us to know the highest truth about Jesus Christ…that he is our greatest treasure.

Here's the beauty to how Paul says the supreme greatness of Christ is going to be revealed. Paul says Christ will be magnified in us by either life or death. “Because to me to live is Christ and to die in gain.” What that means is that no matter what happens to us, when we are in Christ, whether we live or die, Christ is going to get all the praise and honor and glory.

Your life magnifies Christ as you reflect your satisfaction in Christ. And here’s the best part. You reflect your satisfaction in Christ as you work to be obedient to his purpose for your life every day. And how, you may ask, does that look? As Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,

self-control; against such things there is no law.” When your life is captured by this truth, it shows how utterly satisfied you are with living your life differently from the rest of our culture. You are so satisfied in what Jesus did for you on the cross, these things pour out of your life. It’s like being supercharged with winsomeness. Amen?

Instead of looking at our relationship with God in the context of what we can get out of Him, the point is, as Paul says in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ

Jesus my Lord.” Do our lives reflect that truth?

Here’s how another observation from R.C. Sproul fits into all this:

“God’s eye is always on His children. Rather than threatening terror, this truth brings encouragement to Christians…The God who knows us intimately is the God who cares for His people tenderly.”

What a promise to those who are numbered among the saved. As our lives reflect this promise, Christ is most magnified as we are most satisfied in him.

That’s the first part of Philippians 1:20-21. Christ is glorified in our lives as we grow as his followers. For us to live is Christ.

Second, to die is gain. What does that mean? What is Paul saying? Isn’t life about doing everything we can to increase our longevity? Don’t we use phrases like cheating death or skirting death? Why would death be gain?

The answer rests with the second half of verse 23: “My desire is to depart

and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Here’s something else you might want to write down:


Remember, death is to depart and be with Christ. The Bible tells us in Revelation 5:

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

How could that be described as anything but gain?

I love how John Piper puts it. Let’s take a moment to add up all the losses that your death will cost you and your survivors. It will cost you your family, your job, your dream retirement, the friends you leave behind, and your favorite bodily pleasures. You add all those losses up in one column and in the other column you have one mark…the Risen Lord Jesus Christ… and then you joyfully say, GAIN. When you are so satisfied in Christ that losing everything and getting only Christ is gain, then he is most magnified in you.

Here's another way to put it:


I finish today with a personal story.

Eighteen years ago, I had to have major surgery. I’d had a few minor things over the course of my life. I had never been under general anesthesia. I was asked if I was fearful or anxious about the nearly six-hour surgery. I said no, I was not. I knew there would be one of two outcomes. I’d either wake up to see my wife’s beautiful face, or I’d wake up in the throne room of heaven, worshiping my beautiful Savior. It’s all gain. It’s all gain.

Let’s now join our voices together:


To the Glory of God Alone

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