Saturday, March 31, 2007

# 193: Fear of the Lord

A term we don’t hear very often in church circles is “fear of the Lord.” And why should we be fearful? We have a God who is loving, merciful, compassionate, eager to give us His grace, etc. Therefore, I can understand why fear has been negated from the modern gospel message. But the truth is, fear of God coupled with love is the restraining impetus which is meant to keeps us in line with His will—so as not to disobey Christ’s commands—along with being aware of God’s wrath for those who are disobedient. Check Ephesians 5:6. Without that fear, our love for God would do little to keep us from doing as we please, while still calling ourselves Christians.

Question: How did this lack of Godly fear make its way into today’s mainstream Christianity? Most likely, because fear is a negative emotion. Nevertheless, when someone is told he/she may have a possible error in his/her perception of God’s will, that is when an awareness of that shortcoming becomes beneficial wisdom. Proverbs 9:10. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Test your life against Holy Scripture. Then, and only then, can corrective action be taken.

After December 7, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his speech to the nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, spoke these famous words: "The only thing to fear is fear itself." Sorry to say, that principle does not apply when it comes to the worship of God. From a Christian point of view, the Bible says, paraphrased, "The only thing to fear is when there is no active fear of God in the land."

During our lifetime, fear is a necessary life saver; even though we don’t use the word “fear,” it is implied. There is a myriad of examples. And what is it that implores us to do what is correct? Answer: the consequence of wrongdoing, regardless of whether it is just an embarrassment, a minor penalty, or physical death.

Now I ask, what type of restraint/s, apart from fear, is there in conventional Christianity which keeps churchgoers from disobeying God’s commands? Do we fear God’s retribution when we ignore many of the teachings commanded by Jesus Christ—I mean ones which have a negative implication? Or do we silently/secretly say to ourselves, “God’s grace and mercy will cover them all when I repent”? Or are we even aware of those requirements, since most churches remain silent on most teachings which might have an unpleasant reception?

Fear of the Lord must not be taken lightly. That concept is mentioned several hundred times in the Old Testament and sixteen or so times in the New. Most of us take fear as a negative, but in reality, it is a Godsend. Could anyone imagine what this physical world would be like if there was no fear? Could you imagine what Christianity would be like if there was no fear of God? Take a good look around, and most anyone who truly knows our Lord can see the result of little or no Godly fear in America and elsewhere.

What can be done about it? After being fed ice cream and candy most of our lives, as it were, not many will switch to being force-fed spinach and broccoli just because they are healthy. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Religion, in general, has been turned into a belief of peaches and cream. That type of food goes down without any force. To get the masses of churchgoers to accept fear of the Lord, other than in word, is like taking a horse to a lake of crystal-clear water; if that horse doesn’t want a drink, it would be impossible to make him/her drink. Repeating, what can be done about it? Don’t hold your breath; there will be no big changes, if any at all, in the “anything-goes” conduct of Christians in general. The majority will stick with believing the pleasant, feel-good gospel which joyfully says, "God loves you, so fear not."

Proverbs 13:24. "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." In America, we as parents now have laws forbidding the use of the rod on our unruly children. The result is that very few children have a fear of their parents. What that has led to in the last several generations is openly disobedient children to their parents and others. And when these children became/become adults, guess what? They become disobedient to all kinds of rules and guidelines which keep the fabric of society in check. Much of this stems from lack of fear of any serious retribution.

As adults, this lack of fear toward our parents spills over into our spiritual lives to the point where there is little or no fear of our Lord. But for us who fear Him, we should be so thankful we have a merciful God. For when we slip and fall into sin—I mean inadvertent sin—God is waiting for us to return in repentance so that He can lavish His mercy on us. But, as Hebrews 10:26 says, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received a knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."

Notwithstanding this above verse, this does not mean we must give up hope of ever being forgiven. Now, if we become aware of our need to fear God, we will stop sinning deliberately, mean it from our hearts and truly repent, then there will be mercy and forgiveness from God. The reason I say that is because in Matthew 18:21, this is what it teaches: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins again me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’" Other Bibles say, "seventy times seven." Would God expect us to forgive more than He forgives (of course, when there is true repentance proven by deeds)? Absolutely not. This verse illustrates God’s desire to continually forgive. Thus, our desire to keep on forgiving is sharing in God’s divine nature.

A more difficult situation is when a person says to him/herself, "Since I don’t fear God because of His great mercy, I will disobey Him and do as I please; because of His mercy, He will forgive me when I say to Him, ‘I repent.’" As long as this type of situation continues, there will be no mercy or forgiveness. God is no fool.

In conclusion, let me reiterate what is written in the last paragraph. I pray none of the loyal readers of this blog deliberately keep on sinning. And still, I believe that with genuine repentance and Godly fear, if a person stopped sinning deliberately and made a complete turnaround, God’s mercy would still be extended to that person. God does not hold grudges concerning past mistakes for those who love, obey and fear Him. As I mentioned in previous posts, God reads the heart as to why a person disappoints Him. If one’s heart actively desires to continually please our Lord, sins will literally be a thing of the past. Luke 1:50. "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." That tells me there is hope for all of us who wholeheartedly fear Almighty God and desire to love and obey Him; again, a love and obedience which springs from Godly fear and trembling.

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