Summary: The term "fear of the Lord" is not a popular one today.
Living In The Fear Of The Lord
Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25
1. Illustration: One time many years ago, the king of Hungary found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, "I am a great sinner; I fear to meet God." But the prince only laughed at him. This didn't help the king's disposition any. Though he was a believer, the king had gotten a glimpse of his guilt for the way he'd been living lately, and he seriously wanted help. In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man's door at any hour, it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother's door. The prince realized with horror what was happening. Quickly dressing, he stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner, and dragged pale and trembling into the king's presence. In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother and begged to know how he had offended him. "My brother," answered the king, "if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?"
2. The term "fear of the Lord" is not a popular one today.
a. Those who do not follow Christ think there is no reason to.
b. Those who do follow Christ don't want to mention it because it might scare someone away.
c. So it is neither politically or religiously correct in our society.
3. Yet the Bible talks about it a lot...in fact the phrase is mentioned 73 times in the NLT!
4. Today we are going to examine three questions:
a. What is the fear of the Lord?
b. Why should we fear the Lord?
c. How can we demonstrate the fear of the Lord?
5. Read 1 Peter 1:17-25
Transition: First we need to understand...
I. What Is The Fear Of The Lord (17)?
A. In Reverent Fear Of Him
1. Part of the reason, I believe, people struggle with this concept is that we simply do not understand it.
2. Peter gives us several things that helps have a better handle on this subject. First he says, "And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do..."
a. Peter did not want believers to forget that though they have an intimate relationship with their heavenly Father, they must conduct themselves in holiness during the time of their stay on earth because God is also the One who impartially judges according to each one's work (MacArthur, 68).
b. The image of God as an impartial judge was standard in Judaism, which also addressed him as “heavenly Father” in most of its prayers (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
c. We must remember that just because we give our lives to Christ and are given the hope of eternal life, does not mean that we are free to do as we choose.
d. We will still have to answer for how we live our lives hear on earth
3. Then Peter says, "So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.”
a. What does the Bible mean that we should live in "fear of the Lord." Does it mean reverence or terror?
b. Abject terror doesn't seen to fit with the joy and boldness of the Christian life.
c. However, we can water down reverence so that it loses it's significance.
d. Peter talks about the final judgment, where believers will be assessed by their works and heaven and hell will be at stake.
e. This is a kind of fear that does not contradict confidence. A confident driver also possesses a healthy fear of an accident that prevents him from doing something stupid (New American Commentary).
f. This fear is neither dread nor anxiety; rather, it is the healthy response of a human being before an altogether different kind of being, God, and is a sign of spiritual health and gratitude.
g. This holy Judge we now call "Father," a term indicating intimacy and love but also respect and submission (McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary – 1 Peter, 89).
B. Beginning Of Wisdom
1. Illustration: David McCullough in his book Mornings On Horseback tells this story about young Teddy Roosevelt: Mittie (his mother) had found he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone. He was terrified, she discovered, of something called the "zeal." It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance, she read him those passages containing the word ZEAL until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John, 2:17: "And his disciples remembered that it was written, 'The ZEAL of thine house hath eaten me up'" People are still justifiably afraid to come near the "zeal" of the Lord, for they are perfectly aware it could "eat them up" if they aren't one of His. Our Lord is good, but He isn't safe.