We all worship something, we all give glory to something. It’s just a matter of what that “something” is and whether or not it can really bear the weight of the worship and glory that we give to it. Author, speaker, and musician Matt Papa says that the triune God, “is the only thing large enough and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart.” He then proceeds to unpack that within his book, “Look and Live.”
Papa suggests that we are all giving glory to something but if it isn’t the one, true God, then we are committing the equivalent of Esau, selling off our birthright for a bowl of beans. We are sacrificing the real thing for a cheap imitation. In order to fully understand what it means to glorify God, to worship him, we need to actually gaze upon his glory. When we gaze upon his glory and set our eyes on who he is, then we begin to understand how to glorify him. As one is amazed at an artist by looking upon their artistry, so we can look upon the artistry of God to begin to see his glory.
There are two types of glory, Papa writes, glory within and glory given. Glory given results when one experiences the glory within. Glory within is the internal excellence that we see in things, but it is only God who can give us the full picture of glory, That is why, Papa says, that everyone who encounters the glory of God within the Bible nearly falls dead. We cannot encounter the glory of God and remain unchanged.
As G.K. Chesteron wrote, “When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything.” “Look and Live” explores what we as humans so often do, glorifying things that simply point to the glory of God, things that cannot bear the weight of that glory without crumbling. We create idols in our lives that outweigh and replace God in order to find happiness, but those things all fall short of providing the promised result. They all fail us.
Even in our encounter of God’s glory, we fail to understand our approach to it. Rather than saying that we must behave in order to encounter it, we must actually behold it in order to fully experience it and be changed. We cannot enter into the spiritual process of sanctification and experience the transformation of becoming more and more like Christ unless we behold the glory of God. That is the only thing that can bring us lasting change.
Throughout the books, Papa aims straight at many of the things that plague us as Christians, our sin and idolatry. He makes his case for looking upon Jesus to fully experience the glory of God, showing uncanny insights and wisdom beyond his years. He pulls no punches in addressing the sin and idolatry issue that many of us have come to embrace in exchange for the glory of God, sin and idolatry that often emerge our of good things that end up being ends in and of themselves rather than means for looking upon the glory of God.
When we truly experience and look upon the glory of God, not only are we changed, but we also want to share that glory with everyone we meet. So, as Papa shares, “if you aren’t sharing God, then you aren’t enjoying God.”
At the outset, “Look and Live” didn’t seem like a very different book from so much else that is in the “Christian” market. As I dove into it, I felt like, while everything Papa was saying was true, it sounded so familiar that it seemed, in a way, dull and repetitive. I had to push on through the beginning to really see the insights that Papa had to offer. Could he have arrived there sooner in the book, probably, but that’s not always the writer’s fault. It could be blamed on editing.
Although it took me a little effort to push through what I felt like was a slow beginning to “Look and Live,” once I moved past it, the effort was worth it. “Look and Live” is a worthwhile reminder of the good things that can easily entangle us from experiencing the greatness and glory of God. While there were many things that I’ve read in various other places, Papa’s ability to cut to the heart of the issue and simplify it, making it a matter of our need for looking upon Jesus, helps both those who are familiar with the ideas and concepts about which he is writing as well as those who are encountering them for the first time.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)