A Journey Thru Acts 39: The Fear of the LORD 3 (9:31)
My friends, we continue for the third post to dig into the Bible to understand Acts 9:31:
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee & Samaria
enjoyed a time of peace
and was strengthened.
Living in the fear of the Lord
and encouraged by the Holy Spirit,
it increased in numbers.
We have been digging into the Bible to understand
what it means to “fear the LORD.”
Not terror of God where we run away & hide
but not disrespectful casualness with God
where we carelessly/non-chalantly walk all over His carpet with muddy shoes
& treat Him like an acquaintance.
Fear of the Lord: deep respect, awe & reverence for the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
Fear of the LORD says to Christ Jesus:
- “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!”
Last post we looked at a few Bible passages that show us the fierceness of God, the power & majesty of God that caused others to fall at His feet in silence, repentance of sin, & cries for mercy.
We looked at passages that rip the stuffing out of the
cute/harmless/tame stuffed animal jesus
who we have created simply to make us feel good about ourselves.
Next post, if the Lord is willing, we will look at reasons why the stuffed animal jesus of culture will always let us down & why we should surrender to the real Lord Jesus Christ of Scripture, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
But the question remains before each of us:
Which do you choose, my friends?
Which Jesus do you believe in/obey/cling to/worship?
- The One to Whom we are to surrender our self, or the one we can place on a shelf?
- The jesus we control, or the One Who controls us?
Let’s Look At Some Benefits of Fearing the LORD:
(Not that we should start with the question, “Fine, God. But what will I get out of fearing You? What’s in it for me?” That should never be our first or central motivation. No no–we submit to the LORD & repent that we don’t fear Him & probably don’t even really want to learn to fear Him, we apologize to Him for that & ask Him for mercy & receive His free grace by faith, we do this simply because He has told us to–227 times in the Bible God mentions the fear of the LORD!
But there ARE benefits for us, my friends--there are glorious benefits to learning to fear Him–and God reveals many of these benefits right in the Bible! We are wise to know the benefits that God has generously provided for us–oh how good He is!]
- Fearing the LORD Is A (Not Only, But A) Fuel For Evangelism
2 Corinthians 5:9-11: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men…
…14 For Christ’s love compels us…
Oh the love of Christ Jesus & our Biblical fear of the LORD combine to provide the fuel for us to carry out our mission while on earth: to tell others of the glorious Gospel, to fill the cities in which we live with the Truth of the manger, the cross and the empty tomb! These verses below are a big part of the meaning of earthly life for Christians–they are our horizontal purpose toward non-Christians while we are briefly on earth!
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ&gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.&he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God…
6 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” [Isaiah 49:8]
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Again, is hell & eternal punishment the only reason to tell others the Good News about the Lord Jesus? No! But it is A reason, &an important one! The Lord Jesus taught this too…
- We don’t say a doctor is trying to scare a patient to the cure by telling them of their disease’s seriousness & what will happen if they don’t receive the cure. We say the doctor is being caring & loving to explain the full situation—diagnosis & prognosis. So we must, in gentleness & respect & grace & Truth & boldness, do the same as the LORD leads us.
- My 1st college semester didn’t go so well—I wildly underachieved & gave minimal effort. So the freshman dean of students called me into her office & calmly/kindly explained my situation: if I didn’t get my grades up to a certain level by the end of the 2nd semester, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend college there anymore. She also explained all the ways that her office would assist me in improving my grades. She didn’t threaten, & she delivered the full situation in a compassionate but clear way. Her tone was gentle though the news she delivered was firm. Had I continued in my academic rebellion, her compassion wouldnt have stopped her from expelling me—she would have been right to do so! She wasn’t just trying to scare me into doing better, but part of my motivation was not wanting to get kicked out!
- And please note that while I was in the dean’s office, while I wasn’t terrified of her at all, you couldn’t have paid me enough money to mouth off to her or be disrespectful to her! Even though I was an unsaved freshmen living for myself, even I understood a respectful fear of the dean. Oh how much more does the holy & righteous LORD of heaven & earth deserve our humble fear…
And so we need to explain the full Gospel to non-Christians: what God has revealed in the Bible to be the human condition, His cure for our condition, what happens when we receive the cure, & what happens when we don’t.
All from God’s Word. All points of this explanation are loving & compassionate when done in the power of the Holy Spirit on the Word of God & with a desire to see the sinner reconciled to God.
- Fearing the LORD (or not!) Impacts Our Children
Proverbs 14:26-27: Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.
We cannot save our children thru our faith in Christ Jesus; God has no grandchildren.
BUT…We can set them up well, put them in a position to hear the Gospel & see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a Gospel-centered, Christ-obeying, Trinity-worshiping life.
- The healthier parents eat, the more the family’s cupboards & fridge are stocked w/healthy food, the more likely kids will eat healthy…(opposite is also true)
Please consider Psalm 1—“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither…”
- When parents (as trees) are planted deeply in God’s Word & growing/maturing in Christ, guess who gets to enjoy climbing the tree’s branches, sitting in the tree’s shade & eating the fruit of those trees? You betcha—our children…
When we parents don’t fear the LORD, it affects our children,
like when we text & drive w/them in the backseat…
Learn to fear the LORD, dear Christian parents—best inheritance you can give your children…(start now, future Christian parents; it takes years for apple trees to bear fruit!!!). Truest & best education: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge! (Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10)
Christian parents, when we don’t fear the LORD, there is no fountain of life in our families; our children will find polluted wells to try to quench their thirst for God…
- Fearing the LORD leads to us putting our hope in His unfailing love.
Ah so thankful that God shatters this false-dichotomy we have in our minds, this untrue thought that fearing God is the opposite of loving God, that a God Who is to be feared is the opposite of a God Who is loving…oh the glorious Truth that they are both beautifully intertwined!
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
[i.e. the things we sinful humans are impressed by…]
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him
[who realize we need Him every moment of the day in every way],
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
[and not put our hope in anything else—
good deeds, good looks, stuff, money, accomplishments, another religion, etc.]
Verse 11 above shows us the connection between
truly fearing the Lord and putting our hope in His unfailing love!
Please consider this: A person who realizes they’re guilty of a crime,
realizes they’re caught & deserves to be punished,
a person who fears a judge & realizes
the judge has the power to imprison or set them free,
a person who knows something of the merciful compassion of that judge,
that person doesn’t try to run out of the courtroom and away from the judge,
that person runs TO the judge & throws themselves at the feet of the judge
& cries out for/trusts in the mercy of the judge
(not in the merit of the criminal—themselves!).
To truly fear God Biblically is to realize (not rationalize) our guilt
& run toward the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance & faith
& confess it all & ask for/depend on His mercy & compassion alone to set us free…
But when we create a false-jesus who would never judge or condemn us or send us humans to hell, when we create a cuddly-only jesus who we don’t fear,
we think we don’t NEED to run to Him for salvation & mercy & forgiveness,
we think we don’t need Him to atone for our sinfulness…
& so we don’t…
and so He doesn’t.
This is HUGE, loved ones. This is just what the devil wants–people clinging to a false-jesus of “moral therapeutic deism” who think they are going to heaven but are not…
In our fantasy world, there is no salvation needed from a God we don’t need to fear,
and thus there is no salvation to be RECEIVED from a God we don’t need to fear.
And so we have local churches full of “almost Christians” who hang around Christ for a little behavior enhancement but never submit & repent & surrender to Christ for rebirth & new life and who thus are not actually Christian. Wow. My dear friends, perhaps these are the church-attenders the Lord Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:21-23…this is why we are investing so many posts into fearing the LORD, this is why fearing the LORD is the beginning of wisdom/knowledge…
And look also what those verses say: The LORD DELIGHTS in those who fear Him.
Oh to have the perfect holy & righteous God delight in us!
If that is desirable to you, then ask Him to transform you to fear Him in a holy way…
- Fearing the LORD leads to knowing God more deeply.
Psalm 25:12, 14-15: “Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose…
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Let’s not miss this powerful Truth: when a Christian bride & groom exchange wedding vows in a marriage ceremony, do you know what they are doing? They are making their covenant known to each other. Covenant = life-long promises.
THAT is what the LORD does for us as we learn to fear Him: He communicates to us & opens our eyes to enjoy & trust in His great eternity-long promises for us His undeserving people! THAT is the closeness with our Father that comes as we learn to fear Him…fearing Him Biblically brings us CLOSER to God, delighting in Him & enjoying Him MORE, not less!
We learn His promises to us, His glorious inheritance for us, and it is only as we know & cling to God’s promises that we can have comfort IN our suffering: “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119). It is God’s covenant promises that give us comfort while we suffer on earth, and we learn those promises as we fear Him…Oh my dear friends do you see how important this is!? No wonder so many church-attenders feel so far from God, so bored during prayer & Bible study, why so many look like the world…No wonder the Psalm-writer’s next verse says this:
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Of course the psalm-writer’s eyes were on the LORD–with God’s covenant promises in his ears & mind & heart, how could he not give his entire attention to his King, especially while the writer was suffering!? The writer wasn’t looking at sin to give him comfort in his suffering, he was looking to the LORD & His righteousness. Oh may we learn this as well!!!
Reading the next verses in Psalm 25 (verses16-20), it seems that learning to fear the LORD also leads to relief from the troubles of our hearts—not necessarily an end to the troubles but relief from theLORD IN the troubles, like a 2nd wind in mile 19 of a marathon:
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
Again, as a chiropractor provides relief by putting the spine in its proper alignment & place, by fearing the LORD we put Him in His proper place&alignment in our lives—front¢er/high&lifted up—&put ourselves in our proper place&alignment—submission2Him.Oh the relief that comes when our souls are in proper alignment!
So How Do We Learn To Fear The LORD?
God-willing we’ll dig into this in the next post—
for now let me say it isn’t complicated or a secret:
- Ask Him to transform you to fear Him &
- Read all the Bible to know Him as He really is.
Communion/The Lord’s Supper
What a perfect opportunity now, as we have been learning the importance of fearing the LORD, to focus on His love & justice through the cross…let’s fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus!
Isaiah 53:7-12: He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Oh the Gospel, loved ones, the Gospel. Nothing better.
You know in movies when a big strong man walks into a room & people stop & notice?
Something different happens in movies
when a big strong man with lots of scars walks into a room.
There is a sense of, “Whoa. What happened to him? What happened to the other guy!?” Others are speechless, they just stare, & the thought goes thru their minds,
“I’d better not mess with him.”
Oh loved ones,
- consider the scars on the forehead of the Lord Jesus
as the crown of thorns was pounded on His head,
- consider the bruises on His face as soldiers punched Him & hit Him with a staff,
- consider the whip scars on His back, like a field having its soil tilled not in neat rows but criss-cross all over,
- consider the stab scar in His ribs & the nail scars in His wrists & feet.
Consider all that, my dear friends: He has entered the room…and be in silence, just stare at Him by faith, be amazed at Him, be in awe of Him, of true compassion & mercy.
Fear Him, loved ones, don’t mess with Him by continuing in your sin, that sin that you nurture & enjoy even though God’s Word condemns the sin.
Fear Him, but don’t miss out on Him, don’t run away from Him or be indifferent—meh——run TOWARD Him in repentance of your sins & faith in the One Who died to be Your Savior & rose again to be Your King…
1 Corinthians 11 NIV
“23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
“25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
- Fearing the LORD leads to the blessings/benefit of others.
When we learn from God how to have a healthy & 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 & Biblical way,
THIS is the ultimate imprint we will leave behind:
2 Samuel 23:1-4 (NIV)
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.’
My dear friends, as Christians we don’t rule over anyone, but we serve under everyone…yet if fearing the LORD is important to ruling over others in righteousness, how much more important is fearing the LORD to serving under others in humility and sacrifice and compassion!?
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.
Oh loved ones if you truly want to make an impact on the world horizontally,
commit to learning to fear the LORD vertically…