Saturday, January 5, 2008
Should We Be Afraid of God?
Jer 5:22 (NIV) "Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?"
In Hebrew, yirah (Jon 1:16, Ps 90:11), yare (above, Mal 3:16) and pachad (Job 3:25a, Ps 119:120) mean reverent fear, terror, or dread, normally translated simply fear. There are other words in Hebrew for mere respect, reverence, or honor, such as kabad (Ex 20:12). In Greek fear/terror is phobo (Mat 28:4,1 Pet 2:17c), where reverence or honor is timao (1 Pet 2:17a/d).
With this distinction in both Hebrew and Greek, some still assert that "fear merely means reverence." As if God through His Spirit could not select the right word hundreds of times! Some would prefer to believe this than to understand that God really ought to be feared.
Why is it we will not accept the fear of God? Why do we try to "explain away" the fear of God in Scripture? What is it in our unconscious minds that creeps up when the Spirit leads us into the revelation of the fear of God?
Consider The Wizard Of Oz
The needy pilgrims are encouraged to follow a "yellow brick road", or is it a gold street (Rev 21:21)? In any case, it is a narrow path (Mt 7:14) with distractions aplenty, which finally leads to an Emerald City on a hill, complete with a gate keeper (popular Christian myth). All this to see the great and fearful Oz. Oz, of course, turns out to be a fake. The only real power is wielded by the witches, and once the endearing old Oz is dispatched in a balloon, the real battle begins between the good witches and bad witches. Hmmm...
Is The Wizard of Oz a harmless children's story, or a satire of Christianity? (Job 1:1) Consider the mockery of the praise songs, even the "needs" of the pilgrims (Mr 12:30). Even if Christians have lacked discernment, the world hasn't: Elton John sings, "Good-bye yellow brick road, where the dogs of society howl."; America sings, "Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin-man; that he didn't, didn't already have."
Small wonder we try to "explain away" the fear of God when we have such lies rattling around in our heads! Something deep within us says, "It's all an illusion." "Surely, behind the curtain over there, there must be a cute little man pulling levers to make all the smoke and flames." "If we really knew, we'd see that God is just a gentle con-man, who means well, but is really harmless."
Do we know the revealed God of Scripture, or do we believe in a God who is kind of like Oz? We must realize how effective Satan is at lying, and repent, or our knowledge of God will remain flawed. Will we fear God? We must take these thoughts captive with the weapons given us.
Destroying False Notions & Encountering God... Really
2 Cor 10:4-5 (TEB) The weapons we use in our fight... destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. [Isa 11:2-3]
2 Tim 3:16-17 (TEB) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instructions for right living, so that the man who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good work.
2 Cor 5:11 (NIV) Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men...
Ps 34:11 (NEB) Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Ps 89:7 (NIV) In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared.
Satan, The Bogey Man
Ps 76:4,7 (NIV) You [O God] are resplendent with light... You alone are to be feared.
If we fear anything other than God, we are deceived. God is the only thing in the universe worthy of fear. Satan, of course, would disagree and has made an industry out generating bogus fear. His weapons are horror movies, anxieties, worries, nightmares, phobias, panic attacks, demons, etc. Satan wants the fear due God. To be sure, Satan is truly a terrifying master to those under his care, but those "in Christ" have been purchased from his mastery and need not fear him any longer. Whenever it is in our power, we should cut off any access Satan has to our minds or hearts to plant bogus fear.
Isa 8:12-13 (NIV) ...Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
Mat 10:28 (NIV) [Jesus] "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Luke 12:4-5 (Jer) "To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear; fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."
Fear And Sovereignty
In Scripture and experience, the fear of God is closely linked to the revelation of His sovereignty.
Job 23:13-16 (NIV) "But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me."
Fear And Wisdom
Ps 111:10 (NEB) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and they who live by it grow in understanding...
Prov 9:10 (NEB) The first step to wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Fear And Sin
John 15:2 (TEB) "He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit."
2 Cor 7:1 (Jer) With promises like these made to us, dear brothers, let us wash off all that can soil either body or spirit, to reach perfection of holiness in the fear of God.
Prov 8:13 (NIV) To fear the Lord is to hate evil.
Fear And Repentance
Prov 16:6 (NEB) ...the fear of the Lord makes men turn from evil.
Job 28:28 (NEB) ..."The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to turn from evil is understanding."
Fear And Blessings
Ps 25:12-14 (NEB) If there is any man who fears the Lord, he shall be shown the path that he should choose; he shall enjoy lasting prosperity, and his children after him shall inherit the land. The Lord confides his purposes to those who fear him, and his covenant is theirs to know.
Prov 14:26-27 (NIV) He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Ps 34:9 (NEB) Fear the Lord, all you his holy people; for those who fear him lack nothing.
Prov 19:23 (NEB) The fear of the Lord is life; he who is full of it will rest untouched by evil.
Fear And Punishment
Rom 11:22 (Phi) You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God.
One of the ways we fear God is to fear punishment. This kind of godly fear will taper off as we are perfected in love. But for now, the fear of God will keep us from evil.
1 Jn 3:2 (NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God...
Prov 22:15 (NIV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Prov 3:11-12 (NEB) My son, do not spurn the Lord's correction, or take offense at his reproof; for those who he loves the Lord reproves, and he punishes a favorite son.
Ps 23:4 (NIV) ...your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Fear And Love
The fear of the Lord may be the beginning of wisdom, but the end is love. Love is our hope, our goal, our sure destiny as believers. If we are obedient, we will get close to it while still in this world. In the meantime, we fear now, because none of us is yet without sin or perfect in love.
1 Jn 4:17-18 (Jer) Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgment without fear; because even in this world we become as he is. In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.
1 Pet 1:17 (RSV) And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
Ps 118:4 (NIV) Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever."
The Wrong Kind Of Fear: Shrinking Back
"Too good to be true," we say. This saying illuminates a deep human wound, for we have been burned by every one of our false gods and false loves and false hopes, or soon will be. Since everything else but God really is a sham, our instincts have been trained into suspicion. We hold back, we hedge, we plot our retreat, we lower our expectations. So when we encounter God--who alone is worthy of our trust--we shrink back in the one moment, with the one person, in the one hope that we should abandon ourselves to. Indeed, our wound is serious. Who will heal us?
The Terrifying Love Of God
Phil 2:12-13 (NIV) ...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
We should not fear that God will let us down, or that He is not faithful, or just, or forgiving. In fact, His intense determination to make us holy (so that we can be with Him forever) is cause for the right kind of godly fear: that He will NOT quit sanctifying us when, in our opinion, we are good enough. God is the ultimate perfectionist, and He will get what He wants. And if that is us, it is fearful to realize just how far He will go. He is the potter, and He intends vessels of holiness. No, we need not fear that God will fail us or give up on us, but rather that He is indeed faithful to finish what He has started.
Heb 10:31 (KJV) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
To Encounter The Living God, Then And Now
Heb 12:18-24 (Phi) You have not had to approach things which your senses could experience as they did in the old days--flaming fire, black darkness, rushing wind and out of it a trumpet-blast, a voice speaking human words. So terrible was that voice that those who heard it begged and prayed that it might say no more. For what it had already commanded was more than they could bear... So fearful was the spectacle that Moses cried out, "I am terrified and tremble!" No... You have drawn near to God, the judge of all, to the souls of good men made perfect, and to Jesus, mediator of a new agreement, to that cleansing blood which tells a better story than the blood of Abel.
Heb 12:25-29 (Phi) So be sure you do not refuse to hear the voice that speaks. For if they who refused to hear those who spoke to them on earth did not escape, how little chance of escape is there for us if we refuse to hear the One who speaks from Heaven. Then his voice shook the earth, but now he promises: "Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven." This means that in this final "shaking" all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely "made", and only the unshakable things will remain. Since then, we have been given a kingdom that is "unshakable", let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our God is a burning fire.
Ps 19:9 (NIV) The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
Mike Yaconelli: "We have defanged the tiger of truth. We have tamed the lion... The tragedy of modern faith is that we no longer are capable of being terrified."
Acts 5:13 (NIV) No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Mike Yaconelli: "I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, "Fear not"; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or a doctrine or theology, it is God's burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God's presence except us. Nothing--including our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs.
"Our world is... longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender... and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, 'I love you.'"