Jesus Wants Us To Fear God?

fear (10-10-15)

We are in week 3 of our series “Haunting Verses of the Bible.”

Week 1 was “Entering the Kingdom of Heaven,” Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus says,
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Week 2 was “Suffering For and Because of Jesus,” Acts 9:16 where Jesus says about Paul
but in some ways about all Christians, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my Name,”
not as a punishment but as a privilege!

This morning we will look through the Bible to discuss “Fearing God,” out of Matthew 10:28.
Another awesome and haunting verse of the Bible.

Some might say, “Relax! I’ve had a rough week…Why teach on difficult/hard to accept passages like this?
Why do you keep serving up vegetables? I want dessert!”

Great question!

  • Passages like these need to be taught because they are in the Bible—
    I am required by God to teach all of His Word (Acts 20:27),
    not to treat the Bible like a piece of paper that you fold, cut up in certain ways, & then expand
    to produce a pleasing pattern that makes us smile but leaves bits of paper all over the ground
    to be trampled on or thrown out.
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  • Passages like these—the vegetables!—also need to be served to counter the steady diet
    of easy messages (sugar) that many Christians have been fed for so long.
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    God wants to comfort us…without making us comfortable;
    He wants to encourage us without enabling us to take the easy paths that the world offers.
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    Hard Bible passages must be taught to counter the “every day a Friday” soundbites
    that make us think being a Christian is easy, is about us,
    and/or is primarily about the stuff that God wants to give us.
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    Let’s submit ourselves to the Bible and the Holy Spirit to walk us into the Biblical depths of
    “Monday morning” Truth & follow & obey & praise Jesus even there.

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So now to our passage this morning…

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”

 (Jesus in Matthew 10:28).

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The Lord Jesus is teaching us to know God the Father for Who He really is,
not who we think He is, who we want Him to be, or who we have been taught He is:

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  • God can set us free forever!
    God can also imprison forever. Both are loving when God does them.
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  • God can forgive!
    God can also judge and sentence. Both are loving when God does them.
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  • God gives!
    God takes away. Both are loving when God does them.

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Please look at this description of Jesus:

Revelation 3:7: “These are the words of him [Jesus] who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.

What he opens no one can shut,
and what he shuts no one can open.”

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That’s encouraging—Jesus opens the door of forgiveness & eternal life that no one can shut! Amazing grace!

That’s frightening—Jesus can close the door of forgiveness & eternal life that no one can open
(if we don’t receive Jesus as our Savior & King by the end of our earthly life). Amazing justice…

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Both are loving! Both are Jesus!

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Throughout the Bible we see God revealing Himself as both

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gentle and fierce,
meek and bold,
humble and strong,
tender and terrifying,
a soft whisper and explosive thunder/lightening.

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When Jesus returns, some will see Him and rejoice in thanksgiving…

When Jesus returns, some will see Him and recoil in terror…

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Revelation 6:15-17:
“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty,
and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him
who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
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And so my job is to introduce God to you as He reveals Himself in the Bible:
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  • Some of us this morning need to be reminded of the gentleness of Christ, His tenderness,
    Jesus the Suffering Savior, that thru faith in Him we can approach His throne of grace with confidence! (Hebrews 4:16).
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  • Some of us this morning need to be reminded of the ferociousness of Christ, His holiness,
    Jesus the Conquering King, the Lion of Judah not the kitten of the culture (Revelation 5:5),
    that without faith in Him it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

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Both are important reminders from God—don’t run out of here if the Holy Spirit is focusing on the second with you! Remember, there may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)!

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So are we really supposed to be afraid of God the Father as Jesus says in Matthew 10:28?

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Let’s begin walking through this command together, with the Bible as our map/guide.

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“Fear” and “God” appear together in the NIV translation of the Bible 92 times (73 OT 19 NT)–
please click HERE)…

so it’s a command in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that we cannot overlook/push aside.

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But what Does It Mean To “Fear God”?

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To center each day–thinking thoughts, speaking words, doing actions, making plans–
in light of Who God is (His characteristics & His role) and what God wants (His commands).
Jesus lays claim to every corner of our lives; as one has said,
“There is no part of the universe or us to which Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Mine!.’”

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To allow our lives (beliefs and actions) to be built around the Biblical (not cultural) Jesus,
just as He built the earth to rotate around (& stay close to) the sun for life, warmth, existence, purpose.

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To Biblically fear God is to be filled with both love for God & a deep respect/reverence/awe for God;

  • if we only have love for God without deep reverence and awe and respect,
    Jesus simply becomes a pet or mascot that we keep around when needed or convenient
    but that we easily set aside/move on from in times of intense difficulty… or rich blessing.
    In this case, Jesus is like dessert, very nice but not necessary for survival.
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  • If we only have a deep reverence and awe and respect for God without love,
    Jesus becomes a terrifying Presence that we hide from & only approach with reluctance/terror.
    We treat Him like a ferocious dog that we might wave at
    but that we walk by quickly on our way home from school…

 Thus, a Biblical fear of Jesus helps us to make two similar promises for two different reasons:

  • “Because You are my Savior, Jesus, because You died in my place on the cross,
    because it honors You, I will learn to live out my faith in You, to obey & follow You.”
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  • A Biblical fear of Jesus also says, “Because You are my King and Lord, Jesus,
    because it dishonors You, I will learn to not disobey You.”

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And when we do sin/disobey, a Biblical fear of Jesus helps us to take personal responsibility for our sin,
to apologize/repent to Jesus when He reveals to us what we have done
and thus to receive His amazing forgiveness & cleansing (1 John 1:9)!

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Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.”
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  • In other words, Biblical fear helps us run to Jesus and say, “I won’t miss out on You!”
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  • Biblical fear also helps us run to Jesus and say, “I won’t mess with You!”

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Here’s what some different Bible passages teach us regarding fearing God:
(please click on the Bible chapter/verses below to read the actual Scripture references) 

  1. A Healthy Fear of God Is Learned Over Time

Deuteronomy 31:13: We don’t learn this all at once, & we certainly aren’t born with a healthy fear of God.
Don’t feel bad if you struggle with this…Ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn it over time!

  1. A Healthy Fear of God Helps Us To Say No To Sin

Exodus 20:18-21: God had just given the Ten Commandments to Moses and God
“rolled up His sleeves” in the presence of His people,
God helped His people to see more of Who God really is
(thus the thunder, lightning, loud trumpet and smoke on the mountain).

This caused God’s people to be terrified to the point that they stayed at a distance from God!
They hadn’t yet learned to also be filled up with love from God and love for God,
but God was beginning to teach them to fear Him in a healthy and Biblical way.

They were willing to listen to God if He spoke through Moses—they wanted to honor Him!
At that point they couldn’t handle even a small portion of His awesomeness, of Who God really is…

And so Moses—but really God through Moses!—comforts the people
and tells them not to be afraid (terrified in an unhealthy way);
God is showing them Who He really is (and destroying their false opinions of Who God is)
so that they will move from having a terror of God to a healthy/Biblical fear of God.

It is interesting that this passage reveals that God uses testing, difficulty, hard times,
and yes even hard Bible passages to develop in us a healthy fear of God!
That’s why we must not run from the hard times that Jesus leads us into,
the holy suffering that He has prepared for us so we can know Him better & grow…

But why does God want to teach them this holy fear, to replace their unhealthy terror?

  • So they will learn to not sin, to say no to sin (verse 20).
    A healthy fear of God teaches us to say no to sin.
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    Just as a healthy fear of a tiger helps you to not walk up to the tiger and kick it in the face! 🙂
    And that is what every sin is—a slap in the face of God, graffiti on His character,
    for His laws are His character.
    We are to resist sin, even to the point of shedding our own blood (Hebrews 12:4)!

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3. A healthy fear of God also helps us to say Yes to the Lord Jesus.

Luke 23:39-43: a healthy fear of God caused one of criminals crucified next to Jesus
to not rashly challenge Jesus/order Him around,
to take responsibility for the criminal’s own sinful actions,
and to place his faith in Jesus (and thus receive the promise of eternity in Paradise with Jesus!). Wow!

Let’s look at this passage in depth a bit more…

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39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:
“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

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Very interesting. In a way, the first criminal does ask Jesus to save him (“Save Yourself and us!”).
But not in faith, not as repentance, not as an acknowledgement that Jesus is King,
not as a free/undeserved gift to be received
but instead as a sort of payment that is owed to the criminal.

This criminal essentially used the same tactic on Jesus that the devil used earlier in Luke
when the devil was tempting Jesus to sin (Luke 4:1-13).
The devil said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, then do x, y and z…”

This criminal is doing the same thing—”PROVE to everyone that You are the Son of God
by coming down from that cross (play the game by our rules/conditions)…
and while you are at it, take me with you! Just get me out of my current situation—
that’s all I want You for…”

That is not saving faith.

But then we see an example of saving faith & how having a healthy fear of God births that saving faith!

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40 
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.
But this man has done nothing wrong.”

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The second criminal basically said, “Are you kidding me? You still don’t get it?
You are nailed to a cross and you’re still not taking responsibility?
You don’t fear God, you don’t realize when you are in His direct presence;
you are not grieved over your sin;
you’re just looking for a loophole. You are getting what you deserve…I am getting what I deserve!

I know that (shaking his head)…I know that now, finally, after all these years (shaking his head again)…
But Jesus? He is being crucified even though He doesn’t deserve it. He is innocent.
Don’t call on Him acting like He owes you.
Call on Him realizing He owes you nothing…but offers you everything.”

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Then the second criminal speaks to Jesus and in powerful humility
doesn’t ask Jesus to save Him from his earthly punishment
but he simply asks Jesus, not even to be in heaven with Him,
but if Jesus would simply think of him when Jesus gets to heaven,
when Jesus gets to His Kingdom,
because that second criminal realized clearly and believed that Jesus was more than just a carpenter—
He was (and is!) God Himself in the flesh–
Christ would not only be in heaven after He died but He would be (and is currently!) King of heaven.

“Just think of me, please, when You get to heaven, Jesus, Your Kingdom—that’s still more than I deserve.
That will be enough for me.”

That is what a healthy fear of God leads to—it leads to us crying out to Jesus in saving faith…

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42 
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

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And look at Jesus’ powerful response that changed the eternal destiny of that second criminal
and can change the eternal destiny of any of us criminals who in humble faith call on the name of Jesus—listen to how Jesus responds in the midst of His own terrible suffering:

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43 
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

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TODAY! Not tomorrow or a long time in the future…today Jesus promised
that this second criminal would be in Paradise, not suffering on his own cross any longer
but eternally forgiven and saved by Jesus’ suffering on His own cross.

As soon as the second criminal took his last breath on earth he would be taking his first breath in Paradise!

But not just Paradise for the sake of Paradise, not just for the stuff of Paradise—
the real blessing for the second criminal is that he would personally be with Jesus…Personally.

Paradise would not be paradise if Jesus weren’t there with us.
He makes heaven awesome, because He alone (with the Father & Holy Spirit) is awesome.

So let’s not miss it–God enabled this second criminal to have a healthy fear of God,
and that healthy fear enabled him to receive Christ and be forgiven forever…

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That same offer is for any of us criminals today…

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Has God helped you have a healthy fear of Him so that you will cry out to Him for forgiveness?

If yes, then celebrate!

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If no, then cry out to Jesus and ask Him to help you have a healthy fear of Him.

Please do not “resist arrest” from Jesus today…

He is pursuing you to convict you (show you!) of your need for Him,

so that you will turn yourself in to Him as your Judge

so He can then immediately set you free as your Savior!

What an amazing plea bargain that He lovingly offers us through His death on the Cross!

Sign your apology to the Eternal Lord so He can seal your acquittal to eternal life–
guilt & shame removed! 🙂

That is why a healthy fear of God is so vital and so important…more on this topic next post…