Sunday, May 4, 2008

No Fear?

We had a great sermon this morning looking at King Ahaz in 2 Chronicles chapter 28. What a rebellious and unfaithful king of Judah this man Ahaz was. He did everything he could to not just ignore the Lord God of Israel, but to anger Him. Even when God continued over and over to show Ahaz grace by sending multiple armies to attack and harass him, he would not turn to God for help. In fact, he turned everywhere else. To the king of Assyria, even to the pagan idols of Damascus. Even to the point of robbing the temple of God and closing it down. And the result was that he "provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger." And why did Ahaz reject God and do everything to anger Him? Because he had no fear of the One True God. In contrast to even the sons of Ephraim who feared God's wrath on their sin (2 Chronicles 28:12-13), Ahaz had no fear of God or His anger. He would not repent, when God continued to extend mercy to him. He didn't fear God, therefore he had no motivation for repentance. His heart was hardened against God.

This really got me thinking about the whole subject of the fear of the Lord. We find references to fearing God as a positive thing all over the Bible. We're told in Proverbs 1:7 that it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of real knowledge and wisdom. God says in Proverbs 1:28-29 that "they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD." Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 to "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Fear of God is a healthy thing, according to God's word. It means that we rightly understand who He is, the sovereign and righteous and holy King of the Universe. Fear of God's person, His holiness and purity which exposes our lack of the same, is a necessary motivation for holy living. And we find in Romans 3:18 a description of the state of every human heart apart from Christ, lost in sin and depravity: "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

So if the word is so clear regarding the healthy aspects of fearing God, why do we seem to hear so little about it in the evangelical church today? Why do we hear so much talk of God's love and grace and mercy, but so little talk of His wrath and the need to fear Him? When the terms used in the Bible for fearing God are so unambiguous, presenting the proper fear of God as being in the same league as the terror of being attacked by a lion, why then do we so often hear the fear of God referred to in today's church as "reverential awe"? Why are we so afraid of fearing God?

Indeed, I think much of the lack of passion for God's holiness we see in today's church, as well as a lack of appreciation for His grace and mercy, is due to this loss of a healthy fear of Him. How can I appreciate the depth of God's incredible grace towards me in salvation if I don't have a sense of fear of Him and His righteous anger and punishment for sin that He has saved me from? We talk so much about salvation, but what is it in fact that we have been saved from? God Himself. Could it be that we really don't like the idea of the fear of God? We love to wear those t-shirts that say "No Fear". Could it be that attitude of self-sufficiency and defiance carries over into our view of God?

The people of God, saved from His fierce wrath against our sin by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, should be people of healthy fear. We should know our God so well that we understand His nature, His power, His holiness. And so well that we understand and value even more deeply His grace, His mercy and His love. Let's not be people that claim the motto "No Fear", but instead that proclaim, "Know Fear."

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