Replacing Fear of Man with Fear of the Lord
June 11/12, 2005
MAIN IDEA: All Christians should be far more concerned with what God thinks about them than what men and women think.
AIM: Those who hear this message will be convicted of their fear of man, and will be released from the fear of man which cripples their spiritual growth.
I need to be honest. I am a man pleaser at heart. From my earliest school days I wanted to please those in authority over me. My coaches. My parents. My teachers.
I wanted to impress the other students, that they might think I was a good student, athlete, friend.
As an adult I’ve realized how much I’ve craved approval from my wife, my father, my boss. And this desire to receive affirmation from men, though it motivates a certain level of fervor and responsibility in my life, can also be a hindrance to serving God completely.
For I want my neighbors to like me. I want people to think I’m intelligent, cultured, cool, modern, with-it.
I want you to like me.
But when seeking approval from men is the motivating factor in our lives we are heading down a path that is spiritually dangerous. Prov. 29:25 says…
Prov. 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
Fear of man is a constant battle for me. For 36 years I’ve been battling its effects in my life. So today, for me and any other self-proclaimed manpleasers out there, we’re going to take a look at what the word of God says about fearing man – and more importantly to receive instruction from the Lord and the empowerment and motivation to replace this fear of man with the fear of the Lord.
“The fear of man is being more impressed with man’s reaction to our actions than with God’s reaction. That’s bondage. When we have the fear of God upon us, we are impressed only with God’s reaction. We are freed from the concern of what people think. That’s freedom! That’s release! That’s great relief!”
-Joy Dawson, “Intimate Friendship With God Through Understanding the Fear of the Lord”, p. 33.
Fear of man can take many different forms:
-obeying earthly masters who instruct us to disobey God’s word (bosses, governments, family members)
(Use Acts 4:16-20)
Acts 4:16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.
Acts 4:17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
Acts 4:18 ¶ Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Acts 4:19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.
Acts 4:20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Schools may outlaw prayer or evangelization. Keep praying. Keep evangelizing. Keep sharing the love of Christ and speaking of his gospel.
Your workplace may ban evangelism. Keep praying. Keep telling those who will hear of Christ’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
You may be asked to do something unethical by your boss. You may be self-employed and have the opportunity to increase your profits by being unethical. Fear God!
You may receive pressure from unbelieving family members to quit being “so spiritual”. They may pressure you to engage in activities which you can’t do and honor God at the same time. Your response shows whether you fear man or if you fear God.
Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.
Fear of man can also manifest itself this way:
-not speaking the truth to Christians who are wandering from the narrow way. (We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.)
Eph. 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
2Cor. 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
As the body of Christ we are responsible to each other to help each of us stay on what Jesus called the narrow way. As a pastor sometimes I discover that members of our church family are straying. They have compromised and are living in sin in some area of their lives. At those times it would be far easier to simply pray for them – it’s far less offensive. But if I truly love someone – I will not want them to fall under God’s judgment – I will want to do everything possible to warn them and to encourage them to turn around so they can come under the blessings that come from obedience again.
Likewise – we all have our own circle of friends and acquaintances. From time to time we may be called upon to speak a word of admonishment to them.
When that time comes, we must of course use gentleness and respect. We must bathe such a conversation in prayer. We must be certain we are speaking the truth. We must be certain our motivation is love. And then – we must step out in faith, not allowing the fear of man to keep us silent or inactive.
I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of these conversations. I’ve learned that when I hear someone say they have to say something to me “in love” I need to immediately pray for humility and wisdom to hear and receive what the Spirit wants to say to me through that person. It isn’t easy to hear. But when it is told in love, and I remember that the person on the other side of the conversation is acting in the fear of the Lord – it is easier to receive.
Similarly, fear of man mean…
-not wanting to offend a non-Christian by bringing up spiritual matters in conversation.
(2 Cor 5:11)
2Cor. 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.
In a few weeks we’ll be looking at the role the fear of the Lord plays in motivating us to evangelize the world. But for now I just want to mention that if we do not speak about the Lord, about the good news of the gospel with others because we fear offending them or we fear rejection, we are operating in the fear of man and not the fear of the Lord.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica…
1Th. 2:4 …we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
Is there someone God is telling you to share the gospel with but you’ve been afraid? Remember – that fear is a snare! And you don’t have to give in to it! The cost of disobeying God’s instructions are always worse than whatever might happen to you if you obey.
Sometimes, fear of man takes a much more blatant role in our relationships. Sometimes it takes the shape of…
-literal fear of another person because of their ability to hurt you physically or emotionally. (Use Luke 12:4-5)
Just this week in our small group one of our group members shared how there is a person in her life that she literally is having a physical reaction to whenever she thinks of her or has to see her. The relationship has become toxic, and there is a real fear of what this other person might do to her business, her property, her reputation.
Jesus has some very clear instructions for us when this is the case:
Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
If you are living your life as a servant of God, seeking His Kingdom first, you have nothing to fear. Even if your very worst case scenario were to play itself out – that person that you fear cannot touch the eternal part of you. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. Fear God. Keep doing what is right. Do whatever you can to bring peace, and leave the results to God.
The last area I want to mention today where fear of man can crop up in our lives is when we see this happening:
-going along with the crowd in social situations instead of keeping yourself pure. (1 Peter 1:15-17)
1Pet. 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
1Pet. 1:16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1Pet. 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
I mentioned this verse a few weeks ago – but it bears repeating. We should not expect that living a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ will allow us to fit in. There will be times when obeying Him and living in the fear of the Lord will mean we stick out like a sore thumb.
We’ll have to stand up and leave a movie theater. We’ll have to walk out of a room where something is being shown on a tv or dvd. We may not be able to keep up on the most popular music. We may not be able to wear the most popular fashions. It will not be easy to say to your girlfriend or boyfriend that you want to be sexually pure.
But this is where the rubber meets the road. What is more important to you – what other people think of you or what our Holy God thinks of you?
Hebrews chapter 11 (the Hall of Faith) lists some of the heroes of the faith – people who left their homes to obey the Lord.
Heb. 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
Heb. 11:14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
Heb. 11:15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
Heb. 11:16 Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
If you will be freed from the fear of man, God will begin putting in you a longing for the things of heaven. The things that this world has to offer will become less and less meaningful, and you will more and more be attuned to the eternal things of the Spirit. And you can know this for certain – God has prepared a place for people who live like this, freed from the fear of man, and operating in the fear of the Lord.
In Galatians 1:10, the Apostle Paul wrote a question that is a good one for us to keep in the front of our minds this week as we go through all the activities of our lives:
Gal. 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
There’s a song by the Christian rock group Petra called Godpleaser that says:
Don’t wanna be a manpleaser - I wanna be a Godpleaser
I just want to have the wisdom to discern the two apart
Don’t wanna be a manpleaser - I wanna be a Godpleaser
I just want to do the things that please the Father’s heart
I just want my life to glorify His Son
To make my Father proud that I’m His child before I’m done
No need to pat me on the back or stop and shake my hand
I just want to hear my Father say Well done, well done
I just want to hear my Father say Well done
As I sing this song, I want you to ask God to reveal to you the places where fear of man has been robbing you of your intimacy with God. At the end I’ll give you a chance to respond by coming to the Lord and trading in your fear of man for the fear of the Lord.
At end allow people to respond by standing at front to make commitment as the HS leads.