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Friday, August 14, 2015

Has the Church Lost the Fear of the LORD?

Psalm 111
Can I start this evening by asking: What do you fear? Perhaps take it one step further and ask: What is the primary fear in your life right now?
Our fears often determine the way we live and the plans we make for the future.
Now, there are different types of fears, aren’t there? If you want to see me jump (why am I telling you this?) say: RAT … or … BAT !!! They terrify me. So that’s one type of fear.
Here’s another: I’m scared, I’m afraid of the sea. But it’s not a fear that makes me jump when I see the sea. And it’s definitely not a fear that keeps me from swimming in the sea and enjoying the sea … No, it is rather a fear that says: Here is something to be respected, here is something to be held in awe, … here is something that must not be taken for granted, … here is something that is potentially very dangerous … here is something not to be messed with.

Our Psalm today contains the line The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and my subject is The Fear of the LORD and we will see that Scripture commands fear of the Lord, Scripture commends fear of the Lord and Scripture expects fear of the Lord in the life of Christ’s disciples. I would hope we can see that the second type of fear I mentioned comes closer to describing the fear of the Lord than the first. Really, we are not meant to jump in fear every time the preacher or the song words mention God! But having said that I would suggest that we live in a world, and perhaps even in a church, where we have lost the fear of the Lord.

A very elite military battalion had as its motto: We Fear Naught but God

But we live in a world today which seems to fear everything but God … we fear disease, unemployment, crime, the future, old age, global warming, the safety of our pensions, … we fear so much, but we don’t fear God.
Scripture, on the other hand, Old and New Testaments, speaks of only one fear, the fear of the Lord, and it speaks of that fear over and over and over again. I’ll just mention a few New Testament occasions, because we are sometimes tempted to believe this is an OT idea:
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7). Acts 9:31 says that the early church walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Did you catch that: the church was powerful and multiplied because they walked in the fear of God (not man), and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Anointing and fear go hand-in-hand. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:12 that we should work out (not work for) our own salvation with “fear and trembling.”

Some OT references: He gave them these orders: “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord. Job 28:28And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”Psalm 19:9The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.Psalm 34:11Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.Psalm 111:10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.Proverbs 1:7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.Proverbs 2:5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.Proverbs 9:10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.Proverbs 10:27The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.Proverbs 14:27The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.Proverbs 15:16Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.Proverbs 16:6Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.Proverbs 19:23The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.Proverbs 22:4Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.Proverbs 23:17Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.Isaiah 11:2The 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 LordIsaiah 11:3and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;Isaiah 33:6He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

So what is the fear of God: The fear of God is reverential awe and respect for Him. It is a heartfelt conviction that He is not only loving and personal, but holy and just.
Why do you think God wants us to fear Him? Perhaps because there are benefits to us for fearing Him.

Jeremiah 32:38-40
38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.

Here we see that God wants to do us good and promises He will not turn away from us. But He also does not want us to turn away from Him. Let’s look at a few reasons why:

First, the fear of God is the fountain of life for the believer. Proverbs 22:4 says the fear of God, along with humility, leads us to wealth and honour and life. Psalm 111:10 says that it gives us skill in life and provides wisdom. A healthy respect and fear of God is the key to life. Are you experiencing the promise of abundant life here and now?

Second, the fear of God builds faithfulness in the believer. This passage in Jeremiah seems to imply that the fear of God has been riveted into our souls by the Holy Spirit to keep us faithful. The true test of a man or woman is not what we do when everyone is looking. The real test of a man or woman is what you would do if you knew no one would find out.

Fearing God means I practice His presence in my life daily – nothing is hidden from him. He sees everything. I can’t sneak away from His all-seeing eyes or omnipotent mind. And, yes, that does keep me faithful.

Third, God fulfils the desires of those who fear Him and saves us, in other words doesn’t just keep me from sin, but leads me out of trouble.
How do we develop a healthy fear of God?
Begin practising the presence of God…be aware He is watching and evaluating everything I think, say or do.
Have you noticed how people begin to obey the law when they see a policeman driving down the freeway? Speed demons suddenly lose their heavy feet and spend a while driving at the speed limit – until the policeman is no longer in sight.
God is much bigger and has more authority than any policeman with a radar gun. He knows exactly what you and I are thinking right now and whether Christianity is just a spare tire for us … He knows what our real attitudes and values are. On the one hand, God’s divine authority and presence in my life is a terrifying thing. But it is also liberating. We are created after all, for this moment by moment relationship with God. When we have a clean conscience (which comes with the confession and repentance we looked at two weeks ago)we are able to enjoy His love and His freedom. Practice the presence of God.

There’s a story of some boys who were tempting a young lad to pull a prank with them. The three young men taunted the other chap: “Come on, do this with us. Nobody will find out.” Finally the boy mentioned his father and so they teased him even further: “Ha, you’re just afraid that if he finds out he might hurt you.” The boy looked back at the others and said: “No, I’m afraid if he finds out, it’ll hurt him.”

There we get closer to the meaning of the fear of the Lord: We are afraid of hurting Him, disappointing Him, saddening Him. This leads to another truth that we can’t explore this evening, namely that a fear of the Lord is a prerequisite for leadership and this is laid out in Ex 18:21. You see leaders who are not too concerned about hurting God, are even less concerned about hurting the people they exercise leadership over.

The more you fear God – the more you spend time in His presence – the more you dread displeasing Him. His presence in our lives shouldn’t be a heavy yolk around our necks, but we do need a healthy dread of displeasing or hurting or disappointing Him.

I asked at the beginning: What are you afraid of? Now I’ll ask: How scared are you of upsetting God?

The fear of the Lord should be a powerful, motivating factor in our lives. We shouldn’t be legalistic about it – viewing God with a giant fly swatter in the sky, ready to crush us when we displease Him. Rather, a healthy fear of the Lord should refresh us, as practising the presence of God in our life sets us free, saves us, from sin and sinning.

What are you scared of, what are you afraid of? Let’s commit ourselves as part of God’s army, to saying

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