Holy Reverence

In the previous blog I introduced the “Fear Factor.” I wondered if, in an attempt to reinvent or remarket God to today’s audience, the church was in danger of domesticating the Lion of Judah and emasculating the King of Kings. Indeed, the fear of the Lord is a theme that runs throughout Scripture and is important for us to live in light of today. In this blog, let’s look at several of its benefits.

First, the fear of the Lord protects us from defining God’s nature capriciously. One of Satan’s strategies is to reduce God to a fable or a celestial Santa Claus—one who is liked but not feared; handy but not holy; real but not revered. The fear of the Lord demands that we know and understand Him as He is—not how we wish Him to be. We are not free to create our own concept of God. We cannot simply change the nature of God to fit our inclinations or culture.

As we read from the Old Testament to the New, some mistakenly think that God changed over time, evolving from fearful in the Old to loving in the New. The Creator of the universe does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is not simply an Old Testament idea that we grow out of as we have become more enlightened, but rather one that must be consistently biblical if we are to know Him at all.

Second, the fear of the Lord prohibits us from distorting God’s love into shallow sentimentalism. The apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a, NASB). In this verse, John is not promoting the elimination of reverence or fear of the Lord, but only the fear of wrath and punishment.

Mature love understands that God removes the penalty of sin but not its consequences. In fact, mature love exercises discipline, which is a mark of fatherly love and family legitimacy (Hebrews 12:2). We are to respect and fear the discipline of God not because it will destroy us, but because it is painful and not to be taken lightly (Hebrews 12:11).

Third, the fear of the Lord prevents us from treating God casually and living life carelessly. When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he was curious but not careless. God gave him a warning and a principle. In essence, the Lord said, “Moses, I know you are on familiar ground—ground on which you have walked for the past 40 years. But today it is different because I am here and it is no longer ordinary or common. It is holy.”

Here is the principle: Wherever God is that ground is holy. We must never approach His presence casually because in the flame of His holiness our sin is exposed. To God, sin is not just an “oops,” a pragmatic inconvenience, or simply a bad investment with poor returns. Sin offends God!

In the book of Acts, the story of Ananias and Sapphira is one we would prefer to avoid (Acts 5:1-11). It is hard to explain in light of our popular picture of a comfortable God. This husband and wife duo make a false report on their income statement and God strikes them dead on the spot. No second chance; no “are you sure?” Just instant elimination. We are not told that this couple had been a problem in the church, were habitual liars, or past embezzlers—any of which would make the discipline more palatable.

Scripture offers no explanation, but he does record the reaction of the early believers as the word got around. “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11, NASB). It would seem that the fear of the Lord was the intended result—expected then and as it should be now. When understood, the fear of the Lord prevents us from treating God disrespectfully.

Finally, the proper fear of the Lord provides clarity regarding what we should fear. As a result of the cross and our personal faith, we have been set free from certain fears: fear of Satan’s power, death, and condemnation. However, in the context of God’s total nature, there are some things we should fear such as the consequences of a sinful lifestyle, the Lord’s discipline, and future accountability.

Christ rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and its fears so we could live a life that is worthy of Him and pleases Him (Colossians 1:7-14). It is a life for which we will be held accountable (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).

We will all one day give an account of how we lived and invested God’s resources. We will all be examined with our lives opened before our King. We often erroneously think that when we stand before Christ at the entrance to heaven He will only ask if we have “prayed the prayer”. Then with our spiritual bar code scanned, we simply jog down the path to our heavenly condo. The reverent fear of the Lord takes accountability seriously and stewardship soberly.

Of the three benefits listed above, which strikes the strongest with you? What other benefits of the fear of the Lord have you experienced?

Ron Bennet is a Navigator Representative serving as a Regional Leader with NCM. Learn more about his and his wife Mary’s work here.