What are you afraid of? Chances are you do not forget what scares you. When I see a large spider, my body knows how to react; I don’t need to give it any formal instruction. My heart rate increases, a shriek ensues, followed by a cry for assistance and sometimes I have to work up the courage to face it alone. This kind of fear is dread.
There is another type of fear mentioned throughout the Bible - the fear of the Lord. It is not usually given much airtime in churches, nor much thought in the day-to-day lives of Christians. However, Deuteronomy 13:4 is clear that we should fear the Lord: “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” This type of fear is reverence and awe as we seek to obey, follow and worship the Lord for who He is. As we look to Jesus, we can learn what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord in a world where dread seems to dominate.
Much to fear, much to consider
Switching on the news, there seems to be much to fear. Terrorist attacks, mass shootings, threats of war, climate change and the list goes on and on. It’s easy to walk around in dread at the state of our world. Sin has broken our planet and we feel the effects of it every day. Humanity cannot fix the root of the problem even though it tries to address the symptoms. The problem of sin affects everyone and there is no one who is righteous or has the fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18). We all deserve the wrath and judgement of a holy God because the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Many of us are afraid of death. We do everything we can to avoid it and prolong life without much consideration of an afterlife. Our preoccupation with the here and now distracts us from that certain reality we will all experience. Death gives perspective on how fleeting our lives are. However, we were never meant for this world alone, but for a relationship with God that would last for an eternity. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we need not fear death. Jesus died in our place. We will experience a physical death, but through Christ we are forgiven and we no longer stand separated from a holy and just God.
A right perspective
There is very little preaching about life after death and perhaps this is because of the fear of what others will think if we talk about it. The “fire and brimstone” preaching of the past has left a sour taste. People imagine God to be vindictive, but Jesus demonstrated on the cross both the justice and mercy required to come to a holy God. God took the punishment that our sin deserves. We now have a choice to remain in sin or come alive in Jesus.
“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).
It may appear to be an easier alternative to gloss over or ignore sin, but leaving this truth out is an assault on the gospel. Why did Jesus have to die if it were not for our sin? We are told to “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul...rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). We need to have a right perspective of the consequences of sin, why it was Jesus who had to die for us and to repent and serve the Lord with reverence and awe.
A life-changing exchange
On March 23, 2018 in Trèbes, France, a terrorist stormed a supermarket, killed two people and took several hostages. Police negotiated for the release of the hostages, and a lieutenant colonel, Arnaud Beltrame, exchanged himself in the place of the final hostage. He was tragically shot, stabbed and lost his life.
If we faced the prospect of being killed, yet someone came and stood in our place, we would know all that it cost that person to purchase our freedom. It cost them their life so that we could walk free.
When we understand all that it cost Jesus on the cross, His grace, mercy and love becomes more amazing to us. We have been set free from the power of sin and death and can now have a restored relationship with God.
We cannot fully grasp the good news of Jesus without realizing the bad news of the sin in us. A holy God does not tolerate sin and we naturally gravitate towards it. When we repent, we allow Jesus to help us in our weakness and to transform us from the inside out. This world needs saving and it has a Savior in Jesus. If we could only grasp how much Christ loves us and the depths He went to save us, we would want to spend every moment in awe of what a wonderful Savior, God and King He is.
A fear that transforms
With the right perspective of sin and Jesus, walking in the fear of the Lord can be transformational. We know that Jesus will return, there will be a new heaven and earth and no more death, sorrow, crying or pain (Revelation 21). Until then, Christians are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and we need the fear of the Lord before us, knowing the state of our world and its desperate need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Walking in the fear of the Lord can transform our homes, communities, nation and world in several ways. Below are some ways a healthy fear of the Lord can impact our lives:
1. A clear, Christ-centered understanding and proclamation of the gospel
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)
The good news of Jesus is the power of God to save and we have a responsibility to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This touches upon every sphere of life that we find ourselves in. We need to share all that Jesus came to do as explained in the gospels with urgency as we know that time is short until Christ returns. We cannot cherry-pick the gospel to whet the appetite of listeners, but in reverence for Christ as Lord we need to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have… with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
2. Growing in holiness and obedience in our own lives
As we open God’s Word, we will be transformed into His likeness. When we live our lives for Christ it will be evident to those we are in contact with. They will see that there is something different about how we live and it could open up opportunities to share our hope with others. Through reading the scriptures, our relationship with the Lord deepens as we spend time listening and speaking with Him. As we grow in holiness, our desires will become more in line with the Lord. This will bless others as we stand up for truth and righteousness.
3. Fighting against sin by staying close to the Lord
The fear of the Lord gives us the right perspective on sin and a desire to flee from it. We can be protected from evil as Christ is our refuge. There is a very real enemy who is the prince of this world, but those who are in Christ can put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and live a righteous life with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we have a right fear of the Lord, we long to put sin to death in our lives rather than indulging the flesh.
4. Making wise choices in decision-making
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
Making wise decisions is important whether it is deciding what to eat, navigating our family relationships, running a business, choosing a career, working in government, writing foreign policy, diplomacy on the world stage and every decision in between.
Without the fear of the Lord or knowledge of Him, we are not acknowledging the Author of wisdom and that our own wisdom is lacking. In the eyes of the world, the cross of Christ can seem foolish and strange (1 Corinthians 1:27-31). Yet it is the power of God for those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). When we fear the Lord, it is the beginning of true wisdom which can help us to navigate the daily decisions we make.
5. Giving glory to God alone
Humans are naturally self-centered and boast in all manner of things. We desire to elevate ourselves and get our own way when we should be on our knees in a posture of humility before God. If we are to boast, let it be in the cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). We worship a Creator who knows us and breathed life into us. He is the everlasting God and is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We should not be flippant when we speak of Him, but hold His name in the highest regard. What a difference it would make if more Christians took their eyes off themselves and placed them firmly on Christ! As our perspective is taken off of ourselves, we rightfully give glory to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in all things.
“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12).
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