A Journey Thru Acts 38: The Fear of the LORD 2 (9:31)
Last week the LORD blessed us to begin digging into Acts 9:31:
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee & Samaria enjoyed a time of peace & was strengthened.
Living in the fear of the Lord & encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Oh loved ones, where did the peace & strength of the early Church come from?
How did it increase in numbers as it was encouraged by the Holy Spirit?
Because the early church learned to live in the fear of the LORD.
Easily one of the most neglected teachings of the Bible—the importance of fearing God.
Last post (HERE) I made some opening comments on fearing God.
“Fear” and “God” or “fear” and “LORD” appear together in the Bible 227 times—wow.
It is a Biblical command from Genesis to Revelation that we can’t overlook/push aside,
especially not if we want the Lord’s peace, strength & encouragement.
If He is willing, next post we will dig into the Bible to see some of the many benefits of fearing the LORD
and how to learn to fear the LORD—very practical, very important…
For this post, we’ll dig into the Bible to see examples
of the LORD’s fierceness (why He should be feared).
Again, fearing God is not being terrified of Him so that you run away from Him
like Adam & Eve or the Israelites at Mount Sinai or the people in Revelation 6:16.
Fearing God is saying,
“Because of Who You are, Lord Jesus, I won’t miss out on You!”
“Because of Who You are, Lord Jesus, I won’t mess with You!”
We must learn to tremble in the LORD’s presence, be reverent of His majesty & power.
Fearing God is ultimately an issue of alignment:
Putting God in His proper place and putting us in ours.
For example, though many struggle with self-esteem issues,
our real problem at its root is arrogance/pride/self-centeredness—
we think too highly & too often of ourselves.
Even if we constantly put ourselves down with negative thoughts—
guess who we’re constantly thinking about? Ourselves!
It’s still arrogance. Whether our thoughts are positive/negative,
if we constantly think of ourselves, we’re self-ish.
And so we need to think of ourselves less & God more, we need to see ourselves as God sees us &
then just stop seeing ourselves all the time. We need to fix our eyes on Him.
We need to be put in our proper place. As an edit of what one writer has said,
“Humility isn’t [just] thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.”
And as we make ourselves too big, we usually do the opposite to God—
even for many church-attenders, our view of God is too small.
We simply have a view of God that isnt Biblical—it’s a perspective on God that we like/approve of,
but it is our perspective & not Truth.
We see God as tame, merely pleasant & polite but not holy, fierce, a warrior, mighty, magnificent,
deserving of our utter worship & adoration, in whose Presence we can dance & shout for joy
but in Whose Presence we also at times must simply be silent & just kneel
in equally joyful submission & reverence.
We need to put God in His place—Lord & Master & King & Almighty Ruler.
Fearing God is really about alignment. Any chiropractor will tell you the utter importance of alignment,
that in many ways it is the key to a person’s physical health & well-being—
when our spines/disks are in alignment, there is health & the ability to enjoy our bodies
as God designed them. When there isn’t alignment, debilitating health issues arise.
The same is true spiritually, and that is why the fear of the LORD is discussed 227 times in the Bible,
why God calls it the beginning of wisdom, the kindergarten of maturity.
It must come at the beginning, as the core, as the foundation of who we are
so we can have spiritual health & fully enjoy the eternal life that the Lord Jesus’ died to purchase for us.
Though I hope to discuss this in more detail in the next post,
here is just one amazing benefit of learning to respectfully fear the LORD:
The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
We all want contentment—satisfaction/fullness, feeling in our soul what our bodies feel
after Thanksgiving dinner…”I just couldn’t eat another bite!” No more hunger,
just enjoying the delicious flavors, experiencing a drifting off to restful/turkey-filled sleep.
Our souls can have that, but only in Christ, & only as we fear the LORD.
Our discontentment this moment isnt because we need a
- bigger house
- newer car
- fitter body
- new job/promotion
- different spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend
- exotic vacation
- new cell phone
- blah blah blah.
Those are weeds above the ground—our real problem is the root below/within.
The root of our discontentment is that we don’t fear the LORD, we’re out of spiritual alignment—
He isn’t in His proper place in our lives—
& we aren’t in our proper place—
- bending our will to His,
- clinging to Christ Himself,
- relying on Him,
- seeking Him with all our hearts,
- worshiping Him alone,
- learning to obey Him, etc.
The fear of the LORD brings soul-contentment…there are many more benefits,
but if that were the only one it would be enough, right?… 🙂
Now let’s look at some examples in the Bible on the fierceness of God—why He should be feared.
Let’s rip the stuffing out of the plush stuffed animal false-jesus toy
that we have carefully sown together ourselves.
- Walking through the mob who wanted to throw Him off a cliff.
Luke 4:28-30: 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.
29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built,
in order to throw him off the cliff.
30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Boom. He didn’t cower in fear, He didn’t fly out of the dangerous situation.
The Lord Jesus simply walked right through the angry mob, calmly but powerfully met His accusers and said, “Not today, not like this. I will die to pay for the sinfulness of all who will trust in Me,
but not today, not like this, not according to your plan but My Father’s plan.
Now move–I have a mission to accomplish and a cross to march to…”
No stuffed animal plush toy there…what strength, what might, what power…
- Armed soldiers falling to the ground.
John 18:2-6: 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials
from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them,
“Who is it you want?”
5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)
6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Boom. Soldiers carrying weapons, tough dudes coming not to talk/negotiate with the Lord Jesus
but to arrest & abuse Him. And they literally fell to the ground in the presence of Christ
as He declared His identity. What a God-Man He is. Nothing plush here…just power, pure limitless strength, held in glorious check by sacrificial mercy and compassion. No tame lion here…
Oh why don’t we ever fall to the ground in His presence, loved ones?
Not as a ritual/prescribed thing to do in a worship service, but as a congregation together and by ourselves
in our times of personal prayer & Bible reading, why don’t we often simply fall to the ground in humble awe
& reverence & silence at the identity & power of the Lord Jesus?
- Isaiah trembling and convicted of his sinfulness.
Isaiah 6:1-7: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Oh how we often want the LORD to meet with us like this, to have this kind of experience!
But look at what happened to Isaiah when he was in the presence of the LORD so directly:
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said,
“See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
My dear friends, being in the direct presence of the God of love is to have Him show us
our utter sinfulness so we repent & cry out to Him for mercy & forgiveness that He joyfully gives!
The only way He can take away our guilt & pay for our sin is to cause us to feel sorrow &
take responsibility for our sin! Repentance, confession, fleeing to Christ for salvation & new life,
not just for spiritual cosmetic surgery or behavior modification or a spiritual caffeine to boost our day!
Oh how we forget that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
It is the love of God that causes us to feel sorrow & disgust over our own specific sins
so that we spiritually vomit them up, as it were, in confession & repentance to the LORD–
this is the way of salvation, loved ones, and this is what Isaiah was blessed to experience
in the presence of the LORD!
And when we experience this, not only pleasant/happy goosebump moments that always make us feel good, we see the Lord Jesus & His cross as amazing, glorious, our one hope, comfort & relief, refuge & rest…
- God Is A Consuming Fire
Hebrews 12:28-29: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful,
and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Oh there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of worshiping the LORD,
there are heart-postures in worship that honor God (humility, repentance, submission) &
heart-postures that dishonor Him (flippancy, casualness, indifference, etc.)–all in the church building!
Let us never forget that just like physical fire can either warm us in the cold
or cook food for us to live or give sight to help us see,
that same fire can physically destroy as well.
And the LORD & His unending goodness & mercy & compassion will set some sinners forever free by amazing grace and condemn some sinners to eternal judgment by amazing justice. The LORD is a consuming fire…
- Don’t Test God’s Spirit: Ananias & Sapphira.
Acts 5:9-11: 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you &Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
My dear friends, do not be appalled that the LORD responded this way once
to Ananias & Sapphira’s sin.
Be amazed that the LORD doesn’t respond this way to us every time we sin.
Oh how merciful He is to us every moment,
truly His mercies are new every morning–great is His faithfulness! (Lamentations 3)
He gives & takes away, He gives life & takes life, He has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy
and hardens whom he wants to harden, everything He chooses is good/right/just/loving/perfect.
Be amazed at Him, my friends, & be reverent to Him & respectful of Him in your awe…
- God’s Holiness Sometimes Deserves Our Stillness & Silence
Psalm 46:10: He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Habakkuk 2:20: The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
Of course we can sometimes dance before the LORD & shout for joy to Him…
we are also at times to simply be still and know Him in His proper place–
the throne of the universe and our own lives–
and us in our proper place–at His feet in humble adoration.
- His Power Over Nature
Matthew 8:27: “What kind of man is this? [Who is this?]
Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”
The disciples were terrified of the storm…what do you think they felt at the one Who controlled the storm, whom the waves obeyed in submission? “This ain’t a Dude to be messed with.” Exactly.
Unholy terror of the storm was replaced by
a holy fear of the One in control of the storm.
Not terror of Christ, but not disrespect/flippancy either. Not a tame/safe Jesus.
They didn’t just get back to the details of life after the miracle—latest movies/sports/hobbies/pursuits.
They were in awe, they were laser-focused on Him, not self,
and they were put in their proper place–awestruck wonder…
- Warrior-Jesus, Judge Jesus
Revelation 19:11-16: 11I saw heaven standing open&there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
You say, “Ah, Revelation. It’s just figurative language, just symbolic.”
I disagree, but that’s a separate discussion. Let’s at least agree that companies
still don’t make a plush toy out of that Jesus in Revelation.
It wouldn’t sell because it’s not popular with the world. Never has been/will be.
The Revelation 19 Jesus is the Jesus crucified by humanity—
no room for Him in “our” world of gods we like/approve of…
My dear friends, do you believe in & worship & cling to that Jesus,
that God Who of course is beautifully gentle & compassionate
but Who is also fierce & holy & almighty?
Do you believe that He is here in this worship service right now?
As we learn to Biblically fear the LORD we’ll never have another boring worship service, never hear another “boring” sermon, never have another “boring” Bible study, never have another “boring” session of prayer.
Why? Because we’ll know & trust & tremble that the LORD Himself is there!
Oh how ridiculous to say, “I didn’t get anything out of the service/sermon/Bible study”.
Really? The God of the universe was Personally present in that service,
the God Who shakes the mountains & Whom both the waves/winds obey, He was Personally there &
we didn’t get anything out of it? Because the sermon wasn’t exciting or we didn’t like the songs?
Oh the LORD is truly merciful to be patient as we think such thoughts…
Even if the preacher is poor & the worship songs are terrible, even if not many people are present,
God isn’t poor, He is present! Be moved simply by the awesome Truth that you are in the presence of the One before Whom “every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”…Do we believe this?!
If we are constantly noticing little details that presently irritate us,
then we aren’t noticing the BIG LORD Who is constantly&presently among us.
Oh loved ones, the fear of the LORD is the reason I tremble when I preach,
why God helps me not turn a sermon into a self-help Christianized TED talk,
a motivational speech to get you to believe in yourselves, an entertaining part of the worship production
where I tell a few jokes, give a few stories, throw half a Bible verse & make sure you feel good,
& make sure you get out of the building “on time.”
No no. I am preaching the Living Word of God & I am an undeserving representative of the Living God, proclaiming His grace & Truth to human beings made in the image of God, to humans who will live forever, either in the direct presence of God w/everlasting joy or separated from the presence of God forever.
I am up here humbly, unworthily, but boldly delivering the Truth of God
as if it is the last time and the last chance I will have to proclaim how amazing the LORD is,
how much we need Him, and how deep His compassion is to us.
The fear of the LORD is why my heart breaks whenever someone refers to this local church as “your church” (meaning my church since I’m the pastor). Oh goodness no please don’t say that,
even though you don’t literally mean that it’s mine, but if you don’t mean that let’s not say it.
- Does the estate belong to the landscaper?
- Does the janitor own the mansion?
Never. I’m just an undeserving guest & servant who also, by grace, is an undeserving adopted child.
His house, His Church, His people—Jesus said, “I [Jesus] will build MY Church & the gates of hell
will not stand against it”—He does the building of His Church. The fear of the LORD!
There are more Bible passages on the fierceness of God.
But have these ripped apart the stuffed animal false-jesus
who humans have created to make us feel good?
Which do you choose, my friends?
Which Jesus do you believe in/worship/follow/cling to?
The One to Whom we are to surrender our self
or the one we conveniently place on a shelf?
The jesus we control, or the One Who controls us?
Loved ones, don’t be surprised if this teaching leaves you sore—
it has been neglected for so long that to begin to
learn it and understand it and submit to it will leave us sore,
like unused muscles getting a workout after many years.
But while the best workouts do and should leave you sore, you don’t stay sore forever—
eventually the soreness goes away and what is left are muscles that are strong, healthy & in shape.
May the LORD bless our faith in Him to strengthen through learning about, understanding,
agreeing with, and obeying this important teaching of His…
We must be shaken by God’s presence
if we are to be satisfied in His presence.
We must be confronted by God’s presence
if we are to be comforted by His presence.
The early Christians learned this, and they were blessed with peace, strength & encouragement by the Holy Spirit as they increased in numbers; may we trust the LORD to cry out to Him to learn this as well…