Jesus Wants Us To Fear God?
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, “Dude. RELAX! I’ve had a rough week…Why teach on difficult/hard to accept passages like this in the Bible? Why do you keep serving up vegetables?”
- 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, and then expand to produce a “beautiful” snowflake pattern that makes us smile but leaves bits of paper all over the ground to be trampled on or thrown out!
- Passages like these—the vegetables!—also need to be served to counter the steady diet of easy passages (sugar) that Christians have been fed for so long. 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! 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! We must allow the Bible and the Holy Spirit to walk us into the Biblical depths of “Monday morning” Truth & follow & obey & praise Jesus even there.
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 NIV).
Now that’s a haunting verse.
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:
- God can set us free forever!
God can also imprison forever. Both are loving when God does them.
- God can forgive!
God can also judge and sentence. Both are loving when God does them.
- God gives!
God takes away. Both are loving when God does them.
.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.”
That’s encouraging—Jesus can open the door of forgiveness and eternal life that NO ONE can shut! Amazing grace!!!
That’s frightening—Jesus can close the door of forgiveness and eternal life that NO ONE can open (if we don’t receive Jesus as our Savior by the end of our earthly life)! Amazing justice!!!
Both are loving! Both are Jesus!
Throughout the Bible we see God revealing Himself as both
gentle and fierce,
meek and bold,
humble and strong,
tender and terrifying,
a soft whisper and explosive thunder/lightening.
When Jesus returns, some will see Him and rejoice in thanksgiving!
When Jesus returns, some will see Him and recoil in terror!
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[b] wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
When a person comes to Jesus with repentance & surrender, He responds with grace!!!
So why would they respond like that to JESUS?
Because when a person runs from Jesus in rebellion & sin, after the end of their earthly life,
He responds with a gavel—holy judgment.
And so my job is to introduce God to you as He reveals Himself in the Bible:
- Some of us this morning need to be reminded of the gentleness of Christ, His tenderness, Jesus as the Suffering Savior!, that through faith in Him we can approach His throne of grace with confidence! (Hebrews 4:16).
- Some of us this morning need to be reminded of the ferociousness of Christ, His holiness, Jesus as 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)
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)!!!
So are we really supposed to be afraid of God the Father as Jesus says in Matthew 10:28?
Let’s begin walking through this command together—this command from Jesus to fear God—with the Bible as our map/guide.
“Fear” and “God” appear together in the NIV translation of the Bible 92 times (73 OT 19 NT)–
please click HERE)…
so it is a command in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that we cannot overlook/push aside.
But what Does It Mean To “Fear God”?
Here are some definitions to start with:
To center each day–thinking thoughts, speaking words, doing actions, making plans–in light of Who God is (His characteristics and 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!.’”
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 (and stay close to!) the sun for life, warmth, existence, purpose!
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 discard/push aside/move on from in times of intense difficult or rich blessing. In this case, Jesus is like dessert, VERY nice but NOT necessary for survival.
- If we only have a deep reverence and awe and respect for God without love, Jesus becomes a terrifying Presence that we stay away from and only approach with reluctance and 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, with Your help I will learn to only drink from Your amazing love, grace and Truth to quench my soul, to be satisfied! Because it HONORS You, I will obey You, place my faith in You, follow You.”
- A Biblical fear of Jesus also says, “Because You are my King and Lord, Jesus, with Your help, I will learn to never dare to drink from sin to quench my soul, to be satisfied! Because it DISHONORS You, I will not disobey You, I will not reject You, I will not abandon You.”
(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 immediately when He reveals to us what we have done and thus to receive His amazing forgiveness and cleansing!)
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.”
- In other words, Biblical fear helps us run to Jesus and say, “I won’t miss out on You!”
- Biblical fear also helps us run to Jesus and say, “I won’t mess with You!”
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)
- A Healthy Fear of God Is Learned Over Time
Deuteronomy 31:13: We don’t learn this at once, and we certainly aren’t born with a healthy fear of God. So don’t feel bad if you don’t have this trait right now. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn it over time!
- A Healthy Fear of God Helps Us To Say No To Sin & Punishment (Bad)
Exodus 20:18-21: God had just given the Ten Commandments to Moses and God “rolled up His sleeves a bit” in the presence of His people, God helped His people to see a bit more of Who God really is (thus the thunder and the lightning and the loud trumpet and the 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 follow God and honor Him! They simply at that point could not 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 testing His people, 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…
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. 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. Yes, even born-again Christians are supposed to avoid sin. We are to resist sin, even to the point of shedding our own blood (Hebrews 12:4)! And since having a healthy fear of God helps us to resist sin which causes pain to God, others and ourselves, that is another reason a healthy fear of the LORD is an important trait to develop.
3. A healthy fear of God also helps us to say YES to Jesus and His righteousness and forgiveness!
Luke 23:39-43: a healthy fear of God caused one of criminals crucified next to Jesus to not rashly challenge Jesus, 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…
“39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:
“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
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 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…” The devil was tempting Jesus to try to use His divine power to make His earthly suffering easier. But Jesus wasn’t playin’—He saw the trap and avoided it through God’s Word, both in the desert with the devil and on the cross with the criminal. This criminal is doing the same thing—”PROVE to everyone that You are the Son of God by coming down from that cross…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…a lucky rabbit’s foot.” That is NOT saving faith. But now we see an example of what IS saving faith, and how having a healthy fear of God births that saving faith!
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.”
The second criminal basically said, “Dude are you KIDDING ME? You STILL don’t get it? You are nailed to a cross and you’re STILL not taking responsibility? You clearly DON’T fear God, you clearly 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 being crucified—you are getting what you deserve! I am being crucified—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.”
Then the second criminal speaks to Jesus and in powerful humility DOESN’T ask Jesus to save Him from his earthly punishment but, in a super humble way that shows that he realizes that he doesn’t deserve to be rescued, 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 humbly that Jesus was WAY more than just a carpenter—He was (and is!) God Himself in the flesh–He 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, and that is why I am teaching on it this morning. Because of Jesus in me, I deeply desire every person to have Jesus in you as well!
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And look at Jesus’ powerful response that changed the eternal destiny of that second criminal and the 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:
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
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 is awesome. And let’s not miss it–God had enabled this second criminal to have, even if in a small way, a healthy fear of God, and that healthy fear enabled him to receive Christ and be forgiven forever…
That same offer is for ANY of us criminals today…
Has God helped you have a healthy fear of Him so that you will cry out to Him for forgiveness?
If yes, then celebrate!
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 chasing/pursuing you to arrest 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–NOT GUILTY! 🙂
That is why a healthy fear of God is so vital and so important…more on this topic next post…