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« The Formation of Christ | Main | The Worship Effect »

The Duty of Fear

“Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that you do not sin.” Exodus 20:20. 

Moses had just come down from the mountain where God gave him the ten commandments.  It was a spectacular sight.  He had a puzzling message from God to wrap it all up.  “Fear not, but keep the fear of God before you so that you don’t sin.” In other words, if you don’t have any other reason to keep these commandments from God, then obey him for fear. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Israel had not yet come to that stage in moral and spiritual development. They were still under the guiding hand of fear.

In the Bible, fear usually means to revere God, to respect Him, to honor and obey Him.  The twenty-first  century culture is now described as a post-modern and a post-Christian society.  Today, people consider fear to be a negative emotion.  We have gradually applied this notion to God himself.  This happened because one thing leads to another. When we accepted evolution, we doubted creation. When we doubted creation, we doubted the Bible. When we doubted the Bible, we questioned the existence of God. When we questioned the existence of God, we imagined a world without God. If there is no God, then all of the reverence, respect and fear of God evaporates. 

It is little wonder, then, that we live in a world where abortion is rampant, euthanasia is approved, marriage covenants are routinely violated; that honesty, integrity and righteousness are values of the past. Whoever you are, young or old, male or female, you need to possess a healthy fear of God—-as Creator, Giver and Sustainer of Life, Judge and Savior.  It is your respect of God that will determine how you react and respond to him in the issues of your life.  

Some have no fear of God.  “Concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil. Psalm 36:1.

Some fear God but serve their own gods.  “They feared the LORD yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”  2 Kings 17:33. This group made the first concession but rejected the second.  They determined to fear God, but decided not to obey him. 

Today, many have a conscience prepared by the Word.  Raised in church and exposed to righteous teaching, they are very familiar with the Word. When they sin, they do it with a certain level of fear. “Okay, I’m probably an idiot, but here goes.  I may regret it, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

I’ve seen this happen first hand.  I was raised in the church with a great youth group.  We had a young men’s quartet, we sang together in a youth choir, we had lots of activities. But as the kids got older, their faith waned and the world of sin looked more and more attractive.  On my occasional meeting with my friends of long ago, they were so nervous. They hung their heads, made empty promises, told me that they should get back to God. Several years ago, I stood at the casket of one of them. Drinking and drugs eventually claimed his life in his early forties. You would never have believed it had you known him earlier. He loved God.  He feared God.  He respected God. He just served his own God—the gods of pleasure, getting high, getting drunk, good times.  Hedonism is a fun god to serve.  He just treats his worshippers badly.  

“Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

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