A Healthy Fear of God

The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.

 

The church is too user-friendly. It seems to be finding ways to remove the fear of God rather than promote it. In his book Made In Our Image, Steven Lawson wisely writes,

“It seems that everything today is geared to make us comfortable, but not convicted; amused, but not in awe. In our efforts to make seekers more at ease in church, we have downplayed the reverential awe we should feel in the presence of almighty God. We have so emphasized the horizontal aspect of our relationship – our intimacy and closeness with Him – that the vertical aspect – our reverence, awe, and fear toward him – has been almost totally neglected.

“Sit under many of the sermons being preaching, listen to many of the choruses being sung, and read many of the books that are being written, and you will see that there is, for the most part, little of a high view of God being spoken, sung, or read about. As a result, there is very little that would instill in hearts a healthy, holy fear of God.

“We live in a day in which a god made in our image has swept into our churches like a flood, and with it has come an unhealthy casualness toward God that often borders on blasphemy.”[1]

What does it mean to fear God? Fearing God means we are afraid of His holiness, because we are unclean. It means we know that we have to appear before an Almighty God as sinners. That should strike fear in our hearts as we measure ourselves with divine perfection.

Fearing God also means a reverent submission to Christ that leads to immediate obedience. When Solomon sums up everything in his life with fear God and keep His commandments (Ecc 12:13), those are in a purposeful order. Fearing God leads to obedience of Him.

This 1st aspect drives the next. It is because He is righteous and I by nature am not that I surrender to His Lordship in obedience.

There are over 150 references to the fear of God in the Bible – most of them being in the O.T. Here are a few conclusions from some of those references:

  1. The early church was known for it’s fear of God (Acts 2:40-43; 5:11; 9:26-31).
  2. If you don’t fear God, God will remind you why you should (Acts 5:1-10).
  3. Genuine believers are God-fearers (Acts 10:34-35; 13:26; Eph 5:21; I Pet 2:17).
  4. Obedience to God and fear of God are almost always linked (Heb 11:7).
  5. Fearing God is not just an earthly posture but a heavenly one (Rev 11:16-18; 15:3-4).

If John Calvin is right that all wickedness flows from a disregard of God or a lack of fearing Him, then we need to ask the question, “How do I keep myself in the fear of God? How do we cultivate this fear of God?

  1. By reading and mediating on the Word of God. Something I wish this was still practiced today is recorded for us in Deuteronomy 17. Here is what God commanded of each king that ascended to his throne.

Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel” (Deut 17:18-20).

 

You see the connection here with fearing Him and one’s relationship to the Word? Those who fear God know His word and they know it well. They don’t have a causal understanding of it or barely read it every now and then. They know it like a king is to know the laws he enforces.

 

Again, we see this in Deuteronomy 31:9-13 – “So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.’”

2. By having the right “vision” of who Christ is. What are we to see of Christ? Let the Apostle John remind us. He writes, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Rev 1:12-16). Lawson writes,

 

“How did John respond to what he saw? Yawn? High-five Jesus? Snuggle up to Him? Hardly! In absolute dread, the awestruck apostle collapsed at His nail-pierced feet as though he were a dead man. Remember, this is the same John who had been with the Lord during His earthly ministry and had rested his head upon his bosom in the upper room! Yes this vision of the risen, reigning Christ cause John to fall on his face. John was seized with fear because he the Lord as he really is.”[2]

3. By working out your salvation. In one of the most inspiring verses I know of in all of Scripture, Paul commands us, “… Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). This is a never-let up commitment to obedience. It does not mean salvation is by works, but it means until we breathe our last breath we are working on obeying Him because it is what one who abides in Him does.

4. By studying the character of God. People don’t often fear God because they simply don’t know Him. Pick up a good theology proper work and shower your mediations with it.

[1] Made In Our Image, pg. 194.

[2] Made In Our Image, pgs. 200-201.

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