Closing Comments On Fearing the LORD…
Below are some final comments on fearing the LORD. Not that this sums up all there is to know about this, not that we have mined all of the Bible’s teaching on this–not even close!
Three posts ago I made opening comments on fearing God and we looked at some Bible passages to help us understand what this is & what it isn’t. Two posts ago we looked at Bible passages that show the fierceness & holiness of God–why He is to be feared. Last post we looked at Bible passages to see some of the benefits of fearing this LORD. For this final post, please allow me to make some closing comments so we’re hopefully all on the same page with this important teaching of God in the Bible…
To help clarify what something is,
sometimes we need to start with realizing what it is not,
like when you don’t know the answer on a multiple choice test–
start eliminating the options you definitely know are not the answer.
The Opposite of Fearing God Is Not Loving God;
It’s Trusting In Self/Doing What We Think Is Right
Proverbs 3:1-12 (especially verse 7): God teaches us about fearing Him in verse 7 when He gives us the opposite of fearing Him—“Do not be wise in your own eyes; [instead] fear the LORD and shun evil.”
In ANY area of our lives, when we do things “our way” and not the Bible’s way, we are acting “wise in our own eyes,” we are trusting in ourselves rather than God, we are not fearing Him—we have become our own idol! That’s one of the reasons why every sin is serious!
- Imagine being told you had to fly an airplane across a country to protect the lives of your family & others (also imagine that you are not a pilot and have never been previously trained to be a pilot). Now imagine that the world’s most experienced pilot would offer you training and wisdom and knowledge as you fly the plane.
- Would you be a bit scared, nervous, apprehensive? I hope so!
- But for those who wouldn’t literally pass out or run away screaming because of an unhealthy terror of this assignment, a healthy fear would cause them to listen very closely to the pilot training being offered to you. Your healthy fear and understanding of the gravity of the situation would cause you to be completely focused on the Trainer and his instruction, his commands, his methods and way of flying, completely focused on the magnitude of this mission and getting rid of any other distractions.
- You wouldnt get cute/artistic behind the controls & try to do things your way according to your perspective/opinions/feelings. You wouldn’t fly the plane according to the cultural beliefs about piloting or according to a song you heard/movie you watched/Facebook meme you saw (you wouldn’t be DOING any of those things anyways as you flew the plane, hopefully!). You would fly BY THE BOOK methodically, completely under the guidance of the Trainer.
That is a picture of a healthy fear of the LORD. Living the Christian life: knowing & worshiping the LORD, sacrificially serving & helping other Christians mature in Christ, humbly/boldly telling non-Christians the Gospel with our words and actions, that is flying a plane, loved ones—what a mission we have from the Lord Jesus, so important, so dangerous, so impactful! NONE of us are qualified to do it without the Lord Jesus Christ IN us & next to us guiding us through His Holy Spirit & Word.
A healthy fear of the LORD realizes the importance of daily taking up our cross & obediently following the Lord Jesus—not to earn salvation but because He has earned it for us!—& NOT listening to Him only when it’s convenient, when we have time, when we approve of what He says, etc. A healthy fear of the LORD will cause us to be devoted to living life HIS Way, not ours, according to His Truth, not our perspective or the opinions of the culture, celebrities, songs/movies/t.v. shows/Facebook memes.
Let me be plain: If we are not daily devoted to making the choice to read God’s Voice (the Bible) and crying out to Him for strength to understand & obey what we read, we do not have the fear of the LORD and we are living according to our opinions. And whether we live according to God’s Truth or our own opinions has an effect on those we know–especially our spouse, children, co-workers, classmates, teammates, neighbors, and anyone who reads our posts online. It affects and impacts them toward the Lord Jesus or away from Him. Serious stuff indeed.
Over the last few posts, we’ve talked a bit about the plush, stuffed-animal, marketable, cultural jesus that many believe in–a false-jesus that exists only to approve of us & make us feel good & give us a few ethical guidelines to follow as we pursue our dreams. Many church-attenders and non-Christians enthusiastically approve of this stuffed animal version of jesus, but it cannot save us because it is not real. The Lord Jesus Christ of Scripture–the Lion of the tribe of Judah–is very different from the stuffed animal jesus of culture, and which one we believe in is directly related to whether we learn to fear God or not.
May I please humbly share some of the main problems
with the popular and marketable
but false and powerless plush toy/stuffed animal/cute & cuddly jesus?
We may be able to cuddle up with the plush toy stuffed animal jesus, but we don’t submit to such an object, you don’t humble yourself before such an object, your pride isn’t rightfully offended by such an object, you don’t reverently fear such a binky. It is an object of comfort not an object of worship. And since we won’t/can’t worship the cuddly version of jesus, we will thus worship something (anything!) else—we are “wired to worship” and will worship something whether we choose to or not.
Stuffed animal jesus can’t hold us back. We can grip it tightly, but it cannot grip us tightly back—it is a one-sided relationship. When life is falling apart, we need more than a stuffed animal to hug, when facing the end of our earthly lives and the beginning of eternity–always just a moment away!–we need more than something to cuddle. We need the God-Man, the LION of Judah, Who conquered death and in whose presence angels tremble and fall to their knees, we need Him, and only Him. Only the real Jesus, not the stuffed animal, is the real God. We need His strong, certain, rough but gentle Carpenter hands that no spiritual or earthly power can pry us out of.
Stuffed animal jesus cannot fight for us & protect us. My dear friends, you don’t call a therapist or a negotiator when an armed person breaks into your house to do you harm. You call the SWAT Team. You need a NAVY Seal Warrior to protect you, not a blue seal toy to hug. The Bible says that sin is like a lion crouching to pounce and devour and enslave us, that the devil is like a roaring lion looking for humans to devour. jesus the genie in a bottle who exists just to make us feel happy all the time cannot help us in these situations—we need the God-Man-Warrior-King Lion of Judah to save & protect us.
Stuffed animal jesus cannot discipline us. All that toy can do is keep the same stiff/stitched smile on its face all the time. So when we are tempted by sin that will only rob us of joy & kill our very soul, when we are tempted to sin & continue in that sin & be chained by it, stuffed animal jesus only looks on smiling, almost seeming to encourage us to keep on living in sin. But the Lion of Judah will lovingly but fiercely step in & protect us from temptation, will convict us (holy guilt/shame!) when we sin & humble us to cry out to Him for forgiveness! He will then forgive us of that sin & cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness, doing whatever it takes (though it often hurts us in the short-run) to transform us to desire sin less&less and to resist/say no to the various temptations that we face. Only the real Jesus is truly loving enough to fiercely discipline us & protect us…from OURSELVES!
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 & center/high & lifted up—and put ourselves in our proper place & alignment—submission to Him. Oh the relief that comes when our souls are in proper alignment!
Does fearing God mean we walk around on eggshells,
tentatively tip-toeing all day because we are terrified of sinning? Heavens no!
Psalm 119: “I run in the path of your commands.” Like runners on a track—the narrow path doesn’t restrict their running but guides them beautifully directly to the finish line! They run fast, they don’t crawl, in the narrow lane, they don’t wish they could zig-zag all over any way they want! They love the narrow lane, it leads to running not crawling!
Habakkuk: “God makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” YES! Fearing the LORD leads to us rejoicing, running, leaping like a deer on the high places of knowing God…we don’t walk on egg shells, we leap & run!
But with reverence & awe in the LORD…like construction workers on skyscrapers. They certainly aren’t bored with their job—I have to imagine they enjoy it, being part of a building that is rare and spectacular, enjoying views that no one else can! But they are sober on the job, they are focused, they aren’t goofing around carelessly 100 stories in the air, ¼ mile straight up. They pay attention to the details, listen to the Foreman, not neglecting their job or doing their role according to their own opinions but listening & obeying & paying attention to the Foreman.
What a magnificent and undeserved privilege not just to be in a church building, but to be the Church that the Lord Jesus Christ is building Himself! The Church, through which God the Father is glorified! (Ephesians 3) What a blessing, what a role we have to be Christ’s representatives on earth (2 Corinthians 5)–we dare not act casual and careless and distracted in our brief time on earth…
THAT is fearing the LORD, my friends…
My friends, why we have invested four posts into Acts 9:31 & learning what it means to fear the LORD? Because my deepest desire for myself & all of us is that we KNOW the LORD, know Him personally and deeply as He is, not as we want Him to be…
Whenever there is anything of high value in this world, there is usually a counterfeit to that thing: money, diamonds, i.d. cards/passports, etc.
The same is true with God: there are counterfeits out there, and by His grace He reveals in His Word & thru His Holy Spirit Who He really is so that we cling to Him & not the fake. We see counterfeit jesus’ being created & followed even during His time on earth!
- Some loved the military Messiah who would defeat Rome with a physical sword;
- some wanted the Jesus Who did magic tricks;
- some wanted the Jesus who simply gave them free meals.
Yet nearly all of them eventually deserted the real Jesus when He started to teach hard Truth (John 6), nearly all of those people yelled crucify Him when they realized that the real Jesus was nothing like their counterfeit jesus, when the Real One didn’t meet their unreal expectations.
Remember, the Lord Jesus warned us that in the end times people will try to trick Christians by trying to get them to follow false/counterfeit Messiahs–
Matthew 24:22-28: “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
Loved ones, here is what I pray the Holy Spirit does through my blog posts during the week and my sermons each Sunday—this was said about Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a preacher in Wales & England from the 1920s—60s in a fantastic documentary:
“There was an immediacy [to his preaching]. It wasn’t as if you were listening to a man talk about someone who was in another room. It was as if you were listening to a man, who in the midst of the sermon, got that Person and brought Him out in front of you. And you were confronted with God, you had to make a decision about life in light of the God you just met in the Scriptures thru the sermon.”
I WEPT as I listened to this quote a couple of years ago. Absolutely poured tears…this quote pulled out that one Jenga piece that sends the whole tower toppling. I just lost it, but in a good way! I hadn’t consciously realized how deeply I desire—for myself AND for all of us!—to truly meet with the LORD each day & know Him deeply…For me to get out of the way during the sermon (and blog post!) so that we all meet Personally with the Trinity…By God’s grace, my greatest desire is to know Jesus deeply and intimately, not the Jesus of the American culture but the Christ of Scripture…For you to meet Jesus through God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit…and for you to keep on meeting Him throughout the week through that same Word of God and that same power of the Holy Spirit.
May we meet with Him, quieting our souls (Psalm 131:2), to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10), to simply realize in a clearer way WHO He really is, WHAT He has done for us on the Cross, and WHAT He promises us when we surrender our lives to King Jesus…using not pyrotechnics and other human strategies but simply trusting the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
- Like a ray of sunlight pouring through your living room window helps you see the flecks in the air; those flecks are ALWAYS there, but at a particular time of day that ray of light highlights those ever-present particles. May the Holy Spirit and God’s Word–on Sunday morning AND throughout the week!–highlight and illuminate and reveal the LORD Who is always among us, Who died to be our Savior and Who lives to be our King (Aaron Shust)…
Let me thus finish with another related benefit of fearing the LORD:
Doing so leads to knowing God more deeply.
Psalm 25:12-15: “Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.
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.
And THAT is what the LORD does for us as we learn to fear Him: He communicates to us & opens our eyes to 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 (instead of just seeking comfort after our suffering ends): “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…digging into the Bible daily & delighting in it, telling others, “Look at what God has promised to me through Christ Jesus! Look at what He guarantees me, even me, His undeserving child! Look at what the Holy Spirit has blessed my cataract-filled myopic eyes of faith to see! God will do THAT for ME?! YES!!!!!!!!”
Fearing the LORD leads to rejoicing!!! 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, not looking for mere distraction and amusement in his suffering, he was looking to the LORD & His righteousness. Oh may we learn this as well!!!
How Do We Learn To Fear The LORD?
- Ask Him for it. Simple as that. Over and over again.
Loved ones, the fear of the LORD is the BEGINNING of wisdom, and many church –attenders have knowledge but no wisdom because we skipped kindergarten—fearing the LORD—and moved right on to high school/college as Christians.
Fearing the LORD is the foundation that the Holy Spirit builds the house of our maturity. This is one of the main reasons why so many church-attenders don’t mature much, remain stuck in the same sins for years, have little joy in the LORD, don’t risk much for Christ, play it safe, blend in with the culture, approve of sins that non-Christians approve of, etc. We have no Biblical foundation—fearing the LORD—because all we were told is the love of God and not the ferociousness/holiness of God, we were told of His tenderness but not His tenaciousness, His gentleness not His power. He is both!
And so with no foundation we cannot be built solid & strong by the Holy Spirit—the ground underneath cannot support the weight of a building without a strong foundation. We must repent and cry out to the LORD for worshiping a god made in our image…He will forgive us and supernaturally give us the foundation we need to reach maturity! The situation isn’t hopeless! But we must ask Him and cry out to Him, loved ones…
2. Know Him For Who He Really Is.
Don’t Hide from the Bible passages that show the fierceness of God (read all the Bible, not just the parts that teach what you like); know God for Who He is, not Who we want Him to be.
- Celebrate that the same Jesus that made blind people see also used a whip to drive out those who turned His Father’s House of Prayer into a den of thieves.
- Celebrate the same Jesus who did not, at that time, condemn the woman caught in adultery but Who also told her to go and sin no more.
- Celebrate the same Jesus Who made the lame man walk & also told him later to stop sinning or something worse would happen to him.
- Celebrate the same Jesus Who arrived on earth the first time to die as the suffering servant and Who will arrive on earth the second time to judge & rule as the conquering King!
- Celebrate the same Jesus Who longed to gather together sinners under His wings like a hen and Who also taught such hard Truth that most of His disciples deserted Him and no longer followed Him.
- Celebrate the same Jesus Who ate meals with tax collectors and prostitutes and who also said that a person MUST repent of their sinfulness, a person take up their cross and deny themselves and follow Him or else they are not worthy to be His disciple.
If we needed any other reason to pursue fearing the LORD, let’s look at Isaiah 11 to see that it was & is a core characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord“ (Isaiah 11:1-3a).
Wow. The Lord Jesus feared His Father and delighted in doing so. If we truly love the Lord Jesus, we will love what He loves & delight in what He delights in…
When my family & I moved from Chicago, a dear brother in Christ, with whom I had been in a men’s accountability group for four years, gave me two items: a silver shackle to remind me that as I pastor/shepherd my family and this local church and represent the Lord Jesus daily as a Christian, I am a bondslave of Christ—He is my Master. His will, His Word, not my feelings, will be my compass, His glory/fame, not my comfort/happiness, is my goal and mission and purpose.
He also gave me a gardening glove to remind me that I am to gently, humbly, sacrificially, and boldly shepherd my family & this congregation as one cultivates a garden: on my knees with gardening gloves—not BOXING GLOVES! Fertilizing, pruning, planting, nourishing, pouring water, protecting from falsehood that will devour the garden, tending the people so that in the future, by God’s grace, there is growth and maturity.
My friends, that is why we have done four (longer) posts on fearing the LORD: it would have been easy/more comfortable in some ways to do one or even none, but to do one or none I would have had to take off & abandon that silver shackle and those gardening gloves. May the LORD bless us all to grow & mature & bear fruit as we know Him better, as we learn to run to His throne of grace with confidence each day and worship Him every moment with reverence and respect…