You don’t hear much about the fear of God these days. The world regards it as irrelevant, and Christians seem to be uncomfortable with it. To them, the whole idea of a fearsome God is very ‘Old Testament’ – at odds with the contemporary emphasis on tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness. Much better to emphasise the ‘positive’ aspects of the Christian message.
Yet, for centuries, King Solomon’s words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” were ranked among the wisest of sayings. And there was a time when ‘God-fearing’ was a term often used to describe people of the highest character.
But, you may say, isn’t God all about love? And if He is, why should anyone fear Him?
Yes, God is love. I not only believe that. I know it – both in my heart and in my experience of Him. He constantly amazes me with a love relationship so intensely personal as to be the most wonderful thing in my life. Even more wonderful is the fact that He longs for a relationship like that with everybody on this planet!
You cannot know God like that without loving Him. But neither can you know Him like that without fearing Him.
Because God is everything, life without Him is nothing more than a perverse and pointless existence without purpose and without hope.
God is above all things. There is no one like Him. He is the One who made Heaven and Earth. He holds the vast, endless Universe in the palm of His hand. He is the Almighty God, Creator of all things, whose greatness and power are beyond human comprehension. How arrogant are those who refuse Him, and how foolish are the ones who live as if they are not accountable to Him!
Because God is everything, life without Him is nothing more than a perverse and pointless existence without purpose and without hope. You were created to live with Him in the most beautiful, most complete, relationship imaginable – and He has done everything to make that possible.
God has poured Himself into loving us, to the extent of sacrificing His own Son. So He takes our responses to Him – or the lack of them – very, very seriously. Spurn Him, who is the Greatest of Lovers, and you cannot escape the consequences.
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul, “that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” That is not a threat, but it is a warning – and Paul went on to write: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”
I too know what it is to fear God, and I totally sympathise with Paul’s desire to persuade people about their accountability to Him.
Just to emphasise this further: because Paul wrote in Greek, he did not of course use the English word ‘fear’. He used the Greek word phobos, from which we derive ‘phobia’. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone who experiences a genuine phobia, to learn that phobos can equally be translated as ‘terror’. In fact, the old King James Version of the Bible translates that second part of Paul’s statement as: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…”.
Believe me, the fear of God is a very real thing and it is no exaggeration to call it terror!
God always seeks to draw people to Himself by His love, and has no desire for anyone to respond to Him out of fear.
So, am I saying that God terrorises people into responding to Him? Not at all. He is only interested in a love relationship, and love relationships are never the products of coercion. God always seeks to draw people to Himself by His love, and has no desire for anyone to respond to Him out of fear.
Yet you cannot get away from the fact that God is God and every member of the human race is personally accountable to Him, whether they like it or not. Make of that what you will, but it is the truth, and any person, any group of people, any organization, any government, any church, that tells you otherwise is lying to you. Do not listen to them, but open your heart to God and listen to what His Spirit is saying to you.
Early in this message I quoted King Solomon’s words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. I would now like to leave with you his final words from the Book of Ecclesiastes:“…here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”