Let’s talk some fear of God.
Christian, you and I are supposed to fear God Almighty. The fear of our Lord is to Christianity what carbon is to organic chemistry. It’s elemental.
Psalm 147:11 “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.”
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 16:6 “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Philippians 2:12 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Scripture’s testimony is plain. Fearing God is a big deal. But what does it mean for you to fear God? If you’re a Christian, his damning wrath that hovered over you in your sin has been poured out upon another, upon Christ the Son at the cross. There is no condemnation for you in Christ. So, again, what does it mean to fear God?
I’ve taught on this in the past, and taught what I’d been taught on the matter, what is taught in pulpits and seminaries throughout the land. What does it mean to fear God? “Well, it means to consider God with reverence and awe. Think of the sensation you get when you stand at the foot of some towering cliff, seeming to reach miles above you. The dizzying sensation of being in the presence of something so much bigger than yourself. Recognize that God is infinitely bigger than you. The nations are but drops in a bucket compared to him. Be in reverence and awe before him. That is what it means to fear God.”
This explanation gets traction with conservative Christians because it is full of truth and elicits fear. It’s full of truth. You and I must revere and be in awe of God. He is infinitely bigger than us. The nations are but a drop in the bucket to him. And it elicits fear. When you think of standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, you have reverence, you have awe, and you will also feel instinctive fear. That fear that grips the intestines when looking down from a height.
Now, I’ve taught that explanation since picking it up my freshman year in college. And it wasn’t a part of my theology that I gave much thought to reconsidering.
That is, until an old geezer of a pastor put a theological pebble in my shoe. Tim Bayly, probably on an episode of The World We Made, said profoundly, “Do you know what it means to fear God? Fear God. Do you know what ‘fear’ means in the Hebrew? Fear.”
“Wait, David. You think that’s profound? He just defined a word by itself. You can’t do that.”
Well, yes, I do. And, yes, you can, if it’s so plain obvious that the word defines itself to those with some good old country horse sense. Certainly, it’s more valid to define a word by itself than to define a plain, normal word understood by all with two other plain, normal words with plainly different meanings.
Fear is fear. Reverence is respect. Fear is fear. Awe is being impressed. Yes, respect and be impressed with God. Amen. But fear him, too.
The Christian and the non-Christian are required to fear God. But I’ve already noted that while hell lies before the rebel, there is no condemnation for the believer. Christ has made propitiation. So, is there a difference in the fear the rebel is to have and the fear the Christian is to have? Yes, for God is the rebel’s foe and the Christian’s Father.
Last weekend I was in Las Vegas for a conference put on by Wrath and Grace and Voddie Baucham Ministries on the sexual revolution. If you’ve never seen Voddie in person, you may not be aware of just how large his hands are. He’s obviously a large guy. But, whew, his hands are large.
Now, you know how boys brag about their dad being able to beat up everyone else’s dad? Imagine some guy’s dad deserving a whupping, and Voddie is going to give to him. He takes that sirloin steak of a hand and balls it up into a fist and his foe, if he’s paying attention, whether he fights or runs, will be scared. That hand is powerful, and it’s going to be wielded against him for destruction. Now think about being Voddie’s son, at the age of 6. Your dad has just caught you disrespecting your mother. He’s taken you out back to deal with it. He opens that 25 lb. iron plate and you know it’s coming for your rear end. How do you respond? Do you think, “I respect that”? Do you think, “Wow, I’m impressed”? No, of course not. You’re terrified. That hand is powerful, and it’s going to be wielded against your rear end for your discipline. It’s going to put the fear of God in you, to beat some sense into you, so that you don’t walk the path of the fool but walk the path of wisdom.
Christian, to fear God is to fear your Father. And he ain’t a pushover.