THE FEAR OF GOD
Do you believe you can continue to sin and still go to heaven? Do you think you can just tell God you are sorry after you sin without earnestly turning away from those sins? He expects us to obey Him and learn to overcome. He expects us to gain victory over our besetting sins.
Far too many Christians misinterpret the fear of God to only mean reverence or respect. If you study the word “fear” (phobos) in the Greek lexicon, you will find that it means far more than just reverence and respect. For example: Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12).
Fear (phobos) definitely means “fear,” and trembling (tromos) means to “quake with fear.” Paul also tells us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear (phobos) of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1). This clearly implies that God is watching us and there will be consequences if we don’t learn to walk in holiness—morally pure, separated from the ways of the world and set apart for His purposes.
The word “fear” as it pertains to fearing God, is mentioned at least 300 times in the Old and New Testament. Why has this truth been minimized? We never hear a message about the fear of God anymore. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord warns His people when they go astray and then follows through with discipline, bringing severe consequences if needed – invading armies, sending them into captivity, even destroying Jerusalem the city He loved. God has not changed! Some believe the fear of God is only an Old Testament teaching but that is not true.
In Acts 5, the Church was growing and experiencing miracles. They loved one another, donated their possessions and held all things in common. Then Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter and the Holy Spirit, and God killed them both. Why?
To instill fear – “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11). “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31). The 1st century New Testament Church walked in the fear of the Lord. So, why don’t we?
When sending out the 12 to preach in the towns and villages, Jesus told them to fear God: “And 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).
I hope you understand; this is the New Testament and Jesus is speaking to His 12 apostles, telling them to fear God. Jesus was tempted, and He knew His disciples would be also. He even warns them of hell. Hell is very real. Hell, Hades and the Lake of Fire are mentioned twenty-eight times in the New Testament. Jesus describes hell as:
- A place of unquenchable fire
- A furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
- A place of outer darkness
- A place of torment
- A place of eternal punishment.
Some have asked, “Why so extreme? Why eternal punishment?” Consider this: Our Amazing God, the Creator of all things, became a man! He allowed mere men to mock and spit on Him, scourge and crucify Him, all because He loves us and wanted to save us from our sins. Now THAT is extreme – extreme love! What should the punishment be for rejecting this incredible act of love?
I hope you won’t be so foolish as to judge God, saying, “I would never send someone to hell.” You would never suffer and die as He did either. Or say, “I won’t serve a God like that.” I would think twice about this. The Bible teaches that God is both good and severe. (Romans 11:22). He offers eternal joy in heaven if you will believe in His son, Jesus, who shed His blood for you (and continue to trust and obey Him). But make no mistake, you will be eternally separated from God, suffering eternal punishment if you remain disobedient and refuse His extraordinary sacrifice of love.
God is love. He has always been love and always will be love. God is also holy and just. Always has been, always will be. He never changes. Our loving God destroyed the entire population of the world with a flood because of their wickedness. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of perversion. He killed thousands of Israelites in the wilderness because of idolatry, sexual sin and complaining, and later brought armies against them, led them into captivity and destroyed Jerusalem. We must fear God!
The Lord wants to be known for His great love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. He is such a good and faithful God! My life is an example of His amazing grace and forgiveness and I am forever grateful for His mercy. As a young man, I consistently resisted God, sinning profusely, even though He showed me kindness and rescued me many times. Finally, He warned me: “This is your last chance!” At that moment, I felt intense conviction of sin, and the fear of God caused my heart to pound. Soon after, I repented of my sins, was baptized in the Holy Spirit and then entered the ministry! Thank you, Lord!
Scripture says the goodness of God leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4), but you may need to reconsider your definition of goodness. Remember, the goodness of a loving Father also includes serious warnings, uncomfortable discipline and painful correction. The fear of God is a very good thing! It was not His gentle, comforting warmth that brought me to repentance; it was far too easy for me to take advantage of His love. The heavy weight of conviction of sin and the heart-pounding fear of God is what finally caused me to repent and truly surrender my life to Christ. Don’t forget that the Almighty is both very kind AND severe (Romans 11:22), a consuming fire who will not be mocked. I hope you are not taking advantage of God’s loving-kindness, thinking that He doesn’t mind if you sin. You must obey Him.
Having said that; let me ask you: Do you really know who God is? He has revealed Himself as a loving Father, but He is way more than that. Who can fully comprehend the magnitude of His glory and power, His majestic splendor? His names can’t fully describe Him: Ancient of Days, The Great IAM, King of Glory, Lord of Hosts, to mention a few. He knows everything (omniscient), is all powerful (omnipotent) and is everywhere at the same time (omnipresent). And His universe is so incredibly vast! Do you know that there are approximately 100 BILLION stars in each galaxy… and there are 100 BILLION galaxies? Who can wrap their mind around that?
Can you imagine the Lord seated on His throne? There is a sea of glass before the throne and an emerald rainbow around it, with over 100 million (10 thousand x 10 thousand) angels surrounding Him, and the four living creatures continuously saying “Holy, Holy, Holy!” His throne must be enormous!
This scene from Revelation 4 is mind-boggling! There is lightning and peals of thunder. His voice is like rushing water. This is the amazing Creator of all things! He is One God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, perfectly holy, a consuming fire!
Until you see God like this, you cannot fully appreciate the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s way too easy to say, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” Sometimes it just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it? Think about this: Amazingly, the son of God would actually become a man, and then be brutally tortured by those He created. Jesus was mocked, spit upon, beaten and scourged, tearing the flesh from His body. He was disfigured and completely covered with blood. He was then nailed to a cross, hanging in torment for six hours!
Yes, Jesus died on the cross. He did it for YOU, to wash away your sins and give you heaven. If you truly believe this, why won’t you love and obey Jesus, completely surrendering your life to Him? He definitely proved His love for you. Unless you are hidden in the righteousness of Christ and remain in Him, God’s wrath will be upon you. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
There is absolutely no way for us to come near to this incredibly perfect Consuming Fire. You could never do enough; you could never be good enough to come into His presence. Yet, He made a way, the only way, through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. By receiving His sacrifice for our sins, hidden in Him as it were, we can now access heaven and approach the throne of God. But when you first see Him, you won’t be laughing and dancing. You will fall on your face before Him, overwhelmed by His glory, and eternally grateful for the blood of Jesus. Apart from Jesus, you have no right to even speak to this magnificent God. Thank you, Lord for the precious blood of Jesus Christ!
In this hour, the Lord is revealing Himself in a way that many didn’t expect. He no longer wants to be seen only as a loving Father who blesses, comforts and encourages; He wants us to fear His judgment and discipline. He is slow to anger, but He does get angry and will not tolerate disobedience. Be careful! Many Christians are now suffering serious consequences for their sins. Our God will rebuke and chasten His children to help them mature in faith and fulfill their purpose. If left to our desires, we would ruin everything. Fear God, Christian, and give praise and thanks for His discipline.
I love this picture: When Jesus appeared to John, while on the island of Patmos, He didn’t come as a meek and mild Jesus. His hair was white like wool, His eyes like fire, and His feet like brass. He had a sharp two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, fainted with fear when he saw Him. Why did he appear looking so fierce? He was about to bring a very serious message and He wanted to instill fear! It wouldn’t have had the same impact if He showed up with a little lamb on His shoulders. And what did Jesus say? He corrected and warned five of the seven churches in Asia Minor. (Revelation 2,3). The Church of Jesus Christ had only been in existence for about 40 or 50 years, and already some had left their first love, some were compromised, others were sexually immoral and had become spiritually dead or lukewarm (sounds like the American Church). Jesus severely warned these churches. He is warning us again today. We had better heed the warnings.
God is warning us. Are you paying attention?
Before you say I’m being too harsh or negative, understand that the Lord Himself wants you to know who He is. Sadly, many have invented their own Jesus—a nice guy who saves people and loves the little children. Nothing I have written depicts God as mean. I hope you don’t perceive Him like that. He is merciful and kind, slow to anger, abounding in compassion and grace. He is a loving Father who wants the best for His children. God is for us, not against us. Nevertheless, we MUST obey Him!
Throughout the entire Old and New Testaments, the Lord guides His people. He teaches, encourages, and blesses. He also warns them when they go astray and then follows through with discipline bringing severe consequences if needed. The fear of God is necessary! If you can’t see this, you simply don’t know the God of the Bible. Have you invented your own god who allows you to do what you want without consequences? Are you ignoring the sections of Scripture you don’t like?
Consider this picture to help you better understand the fear of God: Your father owns a large ranch; it sits high on a plateau with steep cliffs on all sides. There’s a barbed wire fence around the perimeter. You live next door to your father in the center of the property and have an intimate friendship with him.
You work on the ranch and do what he tells you to do. You never think about the barbed fence; it’s just there. But on some dark night when you are wandering around the property, you are happy that the fence will prick you and keep you from falling off the cliff.
The Fear of God is that barbed wire fence. When you are having fellowship with your Father and obeying Him, you never think about fearing Him. (Fear and intimacy cannot coexist.) But on a dark night, when you’re disappointed, discouraged, angry or simply bored and you begin to wander from the center of His will, you most certainly want the fear of God to prick you and keep you from falling to your death. Sadly, much of the Church has removed this fence. They no longer teach the fear of God and many Christians are now plunging to destruction.
I hope you understand; if you truly love God and seek to obey Him, there is no need to fear Him. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18). I’ve heard this scripture quoted many times; it’s often taken out of context and misunderstood. What is perfect love? To God, love equals obedience; this is Jesus’ “love language.” “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.” “The person who has My commandments and obeys them is the one who loves Me…” (John 14:15, 21). Perfect love is obedience.
He loved you first and gives abundant grace to help you love and obey Him. Do you truly love Jesus or only think you do? Your love for God is perfected when you learn to obey Him. However, when you are weak or discouraged and temptation arises, the fear of God is a very good deterrent.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mathew 11:28-30). These words should give you comfort and peace. Nevertheless, we seem to miss the part about taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him.
I believe His “yoke” means obeying His commandments. (Matthew 28:20); they are easy and light compared to the 613 Jewish laws and ordinances that were necessary to be righteous. But before you write it all off using the word “grace” please understand that you must obey the Lord. If you draw near to Him, loving Him and learning from Him, you will find rest for your soul. If you are striving to perform or choosing to disobey His word, going your own way, the yoke will chaff your neck and become very painful. Doesn’t it seem wise to obey the Lord, follow His lead and find rest?
Throughout the ages, there have always been Christians who found it difficult to obey God. We must stand alongside those who are struggling, lovingly holding them accountable to walk in the truth of God’s word. We must continue to pray with them and for them, for complete victory over their besetting sins. We must also teach them about God’s love, mercy, and grace without minimizing the fear of God and the serious consequences of sin.
If your love for God doesn’t keep you from sinning, let the fear of God help you.
There truly is victory over sin for those who will continue to trust in Jesus Christ, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to be free. There are two deterrents that will help keep you from sin:
- Your love for God – You truly love Him and want to please Him.
- The fear of God – You choose not to sin after considering the consequences.
Both are biblical and very effective. Even those who truly love God get stressed, weary and discouraged sometimes. Your love of self becomes greater than your love for God, and you become more vulnerable to temptation. This is when the fear of God’s discipline and the fear of serious consequences becomes a protective barrier. Please don’t press past it.
In this hour, Jesus, our Bridegroom is saying to His bride, the Church, “Do you love Me? Or are you committing adultery? (James 4:4). Are you loving the sensual pleasures of this world more than you love Me? Do you love Me enough to surrender all?”
Your love is being tested, beloved. Will you choose to love Jesus above all else? God cannot force you to love Him because love must be freely given. You must choose to love Him. Do you talk with God? Do you spend time with Him? Are you using your gifts for Him and His glory? Don’t say you love God if you aren’t doing these things. To truly love God is the greatest thing you could ever do. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.’” (Matthew 22:37-38).
God loves you, and He wants you to love Him; this has always been His desire. What stands in the way? Have you been disappointed or offended by the Church? It’s not about what some priest or minister said or did (or didn’t do); you can’t use that as an excuse. It’s about YOUR relationship with God, through His son Jesus. There is no excuse for rejecting Him. Nevertheless, it remains your choice. You will either accept His loving pardon, surrender your life to Him and obediently follow Jesus, or you are rejecting Him and His amazing love. I hope you make the right choice. Jesus is the only way to heaven. Know and believe the love of God, but you are very unwise if you ignore the fear of God. The following is the Almighty speaking to His people who would forsake Him:
“For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction. The sword shall destroy outside; there shall be terror within for the young man and virgin, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs.’” (Deuteronomy 32:22-25).
Before you say, “This is Old Testament,” read the New Testament Book of Revelation. God has not changed. This is His wrath, judgment, and justice. We must fear God!