Jesus Wants Us To Fear God? (Part III)
For Part I, please click HERE.
For Part II, please click HERE.
As we’ve recently learned from Scripture,
- A healthy and Biblical Fear of God is neither terror of God nor total casualness with God—it is a deep and reverent awe and respect of God, taught to us by Him over time (Deuteronomy 31:13), that says:
- I won’t miss out on You, Jesus
- I won’t mess with You, Jesus
- Fear of God helps us to say no to sin (Exodus 20:20)
- Fear of God helps us to say yes to righteousness and Jesus (Luke 23:39-43)
- The opposite of fearing of God is not loving God, it is trusting in ourselves and living life our own way apart from the Bible (Proverbs 3:1-7).
In this post I want to discuss two more characteristics of fearing God from the Bible:
A healthy and Biblical fear of God helps us to not fear humans.
Now many are thinking, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t fear ANYBODY. I ain’t afraid of anyone.”
What would you do if Jesus appeared to you in a dream and told you to tell ten people today that Jesus loves them and died for them on a cross so they could be offered forgiveness and eternal life? Would you do it? Or would you think of reasons to NOT do it? (Palms sweating yet? 🙂 )
For most of us, we would not do it because of one fear, another fear, or a combination of two fears:
- Fear of self—not doing a good job, not doing it right, not knowing what to say/how to say it, not knowing how to respond if they ask a follow up question or if respond with anger, etc.
- (please note that this is EXACTLY what Moses was afraid of when God appeared to him and commanded him to go to Pharaoh—in an earthly sense the most powerful person in the world at that time—and tell him [with WORDS!]: let God’s people go. Moses said, “I’m not a good speaker, Your people won’t follow me/believe You sent me, I can’t do it.” And LOOK at how God responds to Moses’ excuses for not doing this task—God responds in fierce burning anger:
- “Who gave humans their mouths, Who makes them deaf or mute, is it not I, the LORD? NOW GO! I will help you speak, I will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12).
- Fear of others—what will they say, how will they respond, what if they get mad, what if they believe in something else, what if they are offended, what if what if what if.
- Without realizing it much of our adult life is simply a bigger version of junior high—we live and act with a constant fear of others, with a constant need for the approval of others, and if not ALL others, CERTAIN others. We don’t want them to think we are “one of THOSE Christians,” we don’t want them to think we are intolerant or weird, we don’t want them to think that we are condemning them, we don’t want them to think we are judging them, we don’t want them to think that we are breaking THEIR rules, the culture’s rules for how people are supposed to act, and so we are comfortable breaking God’s rules as long as we obey the culture’s rules. Our fear of humans is bigger than our fear of God.
- Proverbs 29:25: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
I think many of us would be shocked at how many of our beliefs and actions are believed and done through the filter of, “What will others think?” That is, through the filter of fear.
If we truly feared God, we would believe and act through the filter of “What will Jesus think?”
(specifically, the Christ of Scripture not the Jesus of the popular American culture)
The words “fear” and “afraid” occur 541 times in the Bible. WOWZA! God understands perfectly what a big part of our lives fear is, whether we realize it or not. That is why it appears so many times in the Bible. And so God’s solution is not to simply, “Not fear humans.” His solution is to fear Him more.
For example, I want so badly to tell EVERYONE about Jesus! Not because I am a pastor, but because I am a CHRISTIAN! It’s one of the three main reasons we are alive on earth!!! (Acts 1:7-8; Matthew 28:16-20) But I’m scared—of what others will say, of what others will think, of what others will do.
If fearing others prevents us from loving others in the most amazing way possible (telling them about Jesus’ death on the cross and return to life), then now we have a serious problem. Why WOULDN’T we tell everyone about Jesus? How can we NOT use our words to tell everyone we meet how great Jesus is, how much He loves them, what He has done to prove that love, and how much they need Him!? How can we claim to love someone and NOT introduce them to Him Who is Love!?!?!?!?
- And not just tell them about Jesus through kind actions—please! That is a cop-out, and deep down we all know it. It’s way easier to hold the door open for someone than to tell them that Jesus loves them so much that He died on a cross for their sins and that, yes, there are serious consequences for not accepting Jesus’ love and forgiveness! Of course we will choose to hold the door open for someone, or smile at them and thank them for bagging our groceries, or even go around the world for a week to serve hot meals to people—most of us would rather do that, spending thousands of dollars and a week of time, than to spend no money and 30 seconds to tell our next door neighbor that Jesus died for them…because doing a deed of kindness is often way easier than telling someone a word of Truth (or rather, introducing them to The Word, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!).
- Please—no one in the New Testament became a Christian because the Apostles went around only doing kind deeds—they received Christ because they heard with their ears what Jesus did for them, what Jesus offered them. The apostles words of Truth were often accompanied by actions of love, but the actions of love (healing) ALWAYS were combined with clear words of Truth—a verbal telling of the Gospel.
Romans 10:13-15 (NIV) 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
But there is an antidote—a cure!—to fearing humans…and it is fearing God.
When we fear God MORE than we fear humans, we will do what God wants us to do no matter what others say, think, or do in response.
Exodus 1:17: “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” The Hebrew mid-wives disobeyed the sinful command of Pharaoh (to kill the Hebrew baby boys) because they feared God; they would rather face the wrath of Pharaoh than the wrath of God! (and trust me, Pharaoh’s wrath was FIERCE!)
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, like the Hebrew midwives before them, feared God more than they feared kings…may the Holy Spirit help us to do the same!!!
Fear of God Helps Us To Avoid Limiting Our Pain
God the Father asked—COMMANDED! (a request from a King is not really a request)—Abraham to literally/physically sacrifice his only son Isaac.
Now many today bristle at this—we critique and even rebuke (wag our finger!) God for even asking Abraham to do this (but of course we know that this was a test from God to see if he really feared God even more than fearing his own suffering/grief/pain—God NEVER would have allowed Abraham to go through with it!).
Would Abraham REALLY follow the LORD NO MATTER THE COST?
And if not, will we ASK/BEG/PLEAD with God to transform and teach us to follow Jesus ANYWHERE, NO MATTER THE COST?
Jesus Himself says that if your right hand causes you to sin (Matthew 5:29-30)—again, Jesus stating how SERIOUS sin is and how we are not to treat ANY sin lightly—it would be better to cut off your right hand and enter into heaven maimed than to keep your right hand and enter into hell “healthy.” Sin is so serious that if it COULD be localized to one part of our bodies like gangrene, it would be wise, as with gangrene, to amputate that part of the body! SIN IS SERIOUS! And fearing others is sin because it is worship, it is idolatry, it is giving to others what we should only give to God…
Now of course sin can’t be localized like this into one specific part of our physical bodies—the Bible says that our hearts are wicked, and thus our entire souls and bodies are poisoned by sin. Jesus says that we say sinful words because our hearts are sinful, and our words are merely the overflow of our hearts, just as flatulence is the overflow of the waste in our digestive tract.
And this is why Jesus offers us not a healed heart but an entirely NEW ONE! He wants to rip out our spiritual hearts of stone and transplant into us His very own spiritual heart of flesh, of righteousness, of purity! (Ezekiel 11:17-20)
Jesus can offer us His own heart because being fully human (though without sin), He perfectly passed the very test that we have flagrantly failed—He went through EVERY temptation known to humans and did not sin (not even ONCE!), with only the same tools that we have as well: of faith in God the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the guidance of the perfect Word of God.
Jesus also can offer us His own heart because, being fully God, He can give not just His one heart to one human but His one heart to as many humans as call on His name for forgiveness and new life in humble and repentant surrender—as a candle can light other candles without the original candle losing ANY of it’s own flame, Jesus can literally give His own heart of purity and righteousness and life to as many as admit their need for and desire of it. With a long enough wick and enough wax, one physical candle can literally light BILLIONS of candles…Jesus, the perfect God-Man, has plenty of wick, and more than enough wax for all of us… 🙂
And so back to Abraham—his fear of God caused him to view the pain of dishonoring God as GREATER than the pain of hurting himself and his son. Abraham would rather cause himself (and others!) pain than disrespect God through willful disobedience. For Abraham, the pain from disobedience would have been worse than the pain from obedience.
Genesis 22:12: “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
WHAT AN EXAMPLE FOR ALL OF US TODAY!!!!!!
Fear of God is NOT just from the Old Testament!
Acts 5:1-11 (especially verses 5 and 11): Let’s also not forget the response of the Holy Spirit to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Keep in mind that this was AFTER Pentecost, after the promised Holy Spirit arrived to begin taking up residence in the hearts of those who receive Jesus as Savior, after the birth of Jesus’ Church. For Christians, sin is STILL serious, even though it no longer sends us to hell. Sin is just as reprehensible in the sight of the LORD–when we sin we defame the name/reputation of Jesus, we drag His Name through the mud, and we weaken our ability to share Him with others [like caking mud on a flashlight at night]–thus His warning to the early Church through the disciplining of Ananias and Sapphira. A healthy fear of God will help the Church in the United States to return to a lifestyle of obedience and faithfulness to the LORD, a daily following of Christ that is characterized by all-out/sacrificial/radical living that was a chief characteristic of the Acts Church.
Verse 5: “When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.”
Verse 11: “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him
(who realize we need Him every moment of the day),
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Closing Challenge: When we learn from God how to have a healthy and Biblical fear of Him, it has effects on others. Though none of us is a King like David, we all have people who look up to us, we all have people who are influenced by us whether we (or they!) realize it or not! The world is covered in wet cement—what imprint are we leaving each day? If we learn from God to fear Him in a healthy and Biblical way, THIS is the ultimate imprint we will leave behind:
2 Samuel 23:1-4 (NIV)
David’s Last Words
23 These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
3 The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
A healthy fear of God helps us to be as bright & beautiful as the sunrise in a spiritually dark world,
to be as refreshing as growth-causing rain in a spiritually dry, dead & malnourished culture…