In Part 1 of this post, we talked about fear that is negative and not beneficial for us. Today, in Part 2, I want to address something that has been on my heart for some time as well. This post is about fear, but not the kind we discussed before. This kind of fear is good and one we should have, if we claim to follow Jesus.
The fear of the Lord.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” -Psalm 1:7
Throughout my life, I have heard many people say that this “fear of the Lord” is to have a healthy respect for God, or an awe-inspiring view of Him. After all, he created the universe! We should be in awe of Him and all of His wonders. I agree! I, however, think that there are many key parts of fearing the Lord, which we tend to disregard and treat as not important. I believe that we tend to place more importance on how people view us, what they think about our actions, words, etc., rather than what God thinks. We sugar coat the gospel of Christ. We know whom we should fear, but the question remains, “Whom do we actually fear?”.
I think that we can determine what/whom we truly fear, when we examine our actions and motives. For instance, when we refrain from saying a curse word, is it because we have an honor and respect for our Lord, which causes us to live our lives in such a way that we are “beyond reproach”? Or do we simply refrain from speaking a certain way, at certain times, because of the company that we are near? Is it your pastor or church leaders that you fear? Do you dress a certain way, recite scripture, or listen to specific music to impress your church leaders or make them think you are more “spiritual”? Perhaps, it is your parents. Maybe you were brought up with “old fashion” teachings, and by upholding expected morals and standards, you are living up to their expectations of you. Dig deep! Think about it. What is the driving force for you, when making moral or spiritual decisions? Are you Spirit-driven or are you people-driven? Sadly, we often do not know the difference.
It is unfortunate, but many of our churches place an emphasis on things that do not matter! We are leading people to the slaughter, while wearing a big church smile on our face. We are concerned with dressing a certain way, saying the right words, having a large attendance, being nice to people, singing pretty songs, maintaining church business, etc., and very little of what we place importance on has to do with telling people about Jesus! Whom do we fear? We fear that our church will not having enough money. We fear that people will think we are “judgmental” or mean if we talk about sin. We fear that if we lift our hands while singing, someone might think we are strange. We fear that if we don’t have all of the right, pretty and proper words, people might think we don’t know what we are doing. Guess what? We don’t. We don’t have a clue about what we are doing. We are walking through life, as if this Jesus business is all butterflies and ponies, and it’s not even close. I think that Matt Chandler, in his book, The Explicit Gospel, says it well, when he writes:
“The avoidance of the difficult things of Scripture–of sinfulness and hell and God’s notable severity–is idolatrous and cowardly. If a man or woman who teaches the Scriptures is afraid to explain to you the severity of God, they have betrayed you, and they love their ego more than they love you. In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God.
When you couple this avoidance with some of the modernist theology that has Jesus floating around like a mystical Ghandi, never angry at anybody, a dispenser of bumper-sticker platitudes and discount fortune cookies, you’ve got the perfect storm of those who have no awe, no respect, and no real worship for the God of the universe.”
We walk in the gray, eager to appease those around us. We love ourselves, our status, and our egos, as Chandler says. We do not give proper consideration to how our lives look before the Holy of Holies, who has ransomed us from a life of sin, giving us fabulous opportunity to point to Him with everything that we do! What marvelous grace has been bestowed upon us! We have moved from God’s wrath, to the infinitely wide umbrella of His grace! When we understand God’s wrath, and experience pardon from it, our level of awe and reverence for God should grow exponentially! We are divinely commissioned to live our lives in such a way (worship!) that people cannot help but ask about our Jesus, and we cannot help but share of Him! But, really…what do we do? We are nice to people. We invite people to Sunday School(when we are feeling bold). We stay inside our church walls, as if we have a magical glow that will just draw people to the church on Sunday mornings. Where is the awe of God in all of this? Does this “church life” look like the life and action of a person who has encountered the Almighty God and been given pardon for eternity, with the ability to share the experience with others? No, it doesn’t! It looks more like we are hosting a fun little birthday party that we think someone might (maybe, you know, if they are not busy) want to attend. Really? We are talking to, walking past, working with people every day, who are still living separated from their Creator, and they have the opportunity to know Him in the most intimate way! We don’t want to tell them? Where is the awe and respect for our great God, whom has called us–commissioned us–to share about Him with others? What blatant disrespect we have for the God that we claim to love with our whole hearts. We know the call, yet we choose to not yield. It is a blatant lack of fear, reverence, and awe. Our lives do not look like we are in awe. We are NOT in awe.
I realize that this may sound harsh, but I am speaking to myself, just as much as the person reading this. This is an epidemic in our churches! It is a problem! So, how do we break the mold? How do we step out and truly follow Christ? How do we let the love of Christ and the fear of God rule in our hearts and lives? We become Spirit-led people (Galatians 5). We seek the approval of God instead of man (Galatians 1:10). We encourage others not to be complacent, but to be bold in their faith. We, ourselves, turn away from complacency! We live reverently before God, seeking to point to Him and give Him all of the glory. We fall on Scripture. We choose Truth. We choose to shake off the shackles of worldly approval, and seek to proclaim the freedom found in Christ! We cannot know true freedom, until we know what bondage feels like, so we should be honest about sin. We should be honest about hell. We should proclaim the grace and mercy found at the cross. We should point people to Jesus. Not to a preacher. Not to a church. Point them to Jesus. He is all that really matters.
“Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:26-31)
Whom do you fear?