Summary: Fearing God is essential in order to be spiritually successful. Christians need to cultivate this virtue in their lives.
Today, we are going to examine a topic that once was considered to be a very basic part of religious life. It was discussed quite often even to the extent that it was part of common conversation back in the days of our great-grandparents. Today, the topic is shunned by society and even by most churches. I am speaking about the fear of God.
Not long ago, one of the highest compliments you could give an individual was to say that they were a God-fearing person. Today, to say that an individual is a God-fearing person brings derision or scorn. You don’t hear it taught much in most pulpits because a lot of the Christian world has lost touch of what fearing God is all about and how essential it really is to have the fear of God in order to be spiritually successful.
Defining The Fear of God.
I suppose the best way to start our study is to have the Bible define for us what it is to have the fear of God.
Psalm 33:8, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”
Hear, the Psalmist defines fearing the Lord as ‘standing in awe of Him.’ Having the fear of God is to have a awesome reverence of Him due to His being the glorious and majestic Person that He is. We are overwhelmed when we think of His greatness - His infinite knowledge and His power, His complete sovereignty, His high holiness and justice and His benevolent goodness. We are nothing when compared to Him. He is an awesome God and being aware of that fact produces awe and reverence for Him. This is a fundamental part of fearing God.
Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My respect (literally, fear)?’ says the LORD of hosts.”
In this verse, the Lord teaches us what it is to fear Him by using two earthly examples. A child is to honor their father. A servant is to respect their master. Honor and respect comes from recognizing authority. The child honors their father when they recognize His higher authority. They are not equals. The child humbles themself and seek to please and obey their father. They do not disregard their father and scorn him. The same is true with a servant toward their master.
God is both our Father and Master. We are to honor and respect Him due to His rightful authority over us. With humility, we seek to please Him and try to avoid offending Him. This is another part of fearing God.
Luke 12:4-5, "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
Friends, if someone confronted you with a loaded gun or some other deadly weapon, it would be quite natural for us to experience fear. It would be quite human for us to be a bit afraid of that person because our life is in their hand. Just as one would likely tremble in the presence of one who could take our life, so Jesus taught us to fear the Lord and more so. Jesus says that another human being might be able to kill our body but they can’t kill our soul. God, on the other hand, can not only kill us physically but has the authority and power to destroy our soul in Hell. He can make us suffer forever and ever. It is not a popular thing to say, but we need to have some good old-fashioned fear of God. I mean to be afraid of God. He can punish us in the most extreme way.
It is common for us to want to avoid or run-away from what we are afraid of. With our fear of God, it should be quite the opposite. Our fear of what He can do to us is to encourage us to draw all the more closely to Him. He is the only One Who can save us from Hell. He provides the only way for our salvation. Psalm 103:10-13, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 130:3-4, “If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, That Thou mayest be feared.” Paul also talks about our needing to be careful to, out of fear, seek and work on our salvation with God. Philippians 2:12, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”