Look + Live

“The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity—and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it, and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.”

{Thomas Chalmers}


This book is about glory.  About the glory of God that we must fight daily to see, in order to live.  We were made to behold His glory, to fix our eyes on His incomparable beauty, and a vision of anything less will rot our soul.  Papa’s profound book has forever changed the word “glory” for me and it made my heart sing.

I was drawn to this book immediately simply based on the subtitle: Behold the Soul-thrilling, Sin-destroying Glory of Christ.  Anyone who has struggled with “besetting sins” finds a breath of relief and hope in such words.  I was not familiar with Matt Papa before reading this book, but immediately found kinship with him in the earliest pages of his book.  In his acknowledgments, he gives credit to some of the great thinkers and communicators of our faith (Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, Tim Keller, J.D. Greear), claiming that his book owes its very existence to their teaching and influence.  His book continues to quote heavily from great theologians and minds such as G. K. Chesterton, A. W. Tozer, C. S. Lewis, and Blaise Pascal.  His writing is thus deeply rooted in solid biblical theology, and at the same time is delightful and fresh read.

In Look and Live, Papa, a worship leader + minister, calls us back to true worship.  He reminds that we are all expert worshippers, created to worship and craving objects of worship.  It is our sinful bent away from God that causes us to worship lesser things.  This craving to worship combined with our fallen sinful nature leads us to addiction to these lesser gods.  How do we then live?  How do we then worship rightly?

Look and live, Papa says.  He recalls the passage in Numbers 21 where God’s people, newly rescued from the bonds of slavery in Egypt and now wandering in the desert, became indignant against God, ungrateful for His provision of mere manna for their food.  God disciplined them by sending poisonous snakes into the camp.  The people immediately returned to God, pleading for relief and healing.  God’s response was to instruct Moses to make a fiery serpent on a standard (a snake on a pole) and whoever was bitten by a snake must look at it, and he would live.  Christ later offered the ultimate insight into this passage when He said,

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

As Matt Papa says:

“God, the Father and Master-Teacher, orchestrated that moment in history–a true historical parable–to show us what the cross is about and what faith is like.

Faith is a looking.

It is the serious looking of sin-stricken, snake-bitten people toward God’s peculiar and radical display of mercy…the crucified, bloody, exalted Son of God…

To live is to behold Him…

My call is not ‘Look and get a better life’ or ‘Look and get a warm fuzzy.’

From one who bears the fang-shaped scar, my call to you is: Behold the anti-venom of the soul: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  Look and live.” (p. 16-17)

Papa shows how God’s call to us in scripture is not primarily  “Behave!” but “Behold!”  As he says, “Christianity is the hard, joyful journey of beholding Jesus by faith until the day you behold Him by sight.”  The rest of his book continues to unpack and reveal the centrality of 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Papa goes on to prove that we can only burn as we behold Him, and that our “true worship begins with gospel and ends in the mission.  It is a rhythm of revelation and response: beholding the wondrous mystery and declaring that mystery to others” (p.11).  And so we see how truly gazing on the glory of God sets our souls ablaze, culminating in the proclamation of that glory to hungering souls.

Matt Papa’s way with words is that of an artist.  Not only does he write sound biblical, depthy, soul-reviving words, but his construction and development often erupts into the lyrical.  (He wrote an accompanying worship album also entitled “Look and Live.”)  Prose breaks forth into praise, into pure poetry.  Highly readable and enjoyable while being profound.  I found myself underlining and exalting over every page.  It will be a book I will return to again and again, basic and essential to the Christian faith.  Real help and healing for the weary and sin-sick soul.

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Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I am not required to write a favorable review, and the opinions expressed are my own.