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Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom

What Are You Afraid Of?

The past year [2020] was a year of trial and testing for society at large and for the Church of God. It was a year dominated by fear, fear of sickness, fear of the political power of others, fear of the flesh, fear of man. There have been stumbles, but even failures can be used for good if we use them as an opportunity to reflect, meditate, and soberly consider our thoughts and actions. 

Today we will discuss  fear. I want to focus on fear of God, however, I first want to briefly touch on human fear, or fear of the flesh.


Fear of Death

Hebrews 2:14-15 the bible boils human fear down to fear of their own death. Sub categories of human fear might include fear of pain, fear of humiliation… but fear of death is the real bottom line. As we just read… the solution and help to go beyond that fear begins with confidence and faith in the living and active high priest: Jesus Christ. A powerful advocate who is is personally available to help you work your way from this fear of death [common to all human beings] to freedom, joy, and expectation of eternal life.

Scripture likens this fear filled state of mind to being in prison, and tells us one of the many purposes of the Messiah [the Christ] is to begin this work of freeing the prisoners; Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 49:9, Isaiah 61:1.

The walls and bars of that prison are ignorance, misunderstanding, and deception... knowing  God's truth is what can set a person free from such a prison. God’s truth begins with knowing Jesus Christ and what He's all about... then it is built upon through the work and illumination offered by the spirit of Christ and the spirit of God at work in you. God’s truth opens the door and offers freedom from mental anguish... God’s truth ALSO serves to move us on a path:  from and unnecessary fear of death, to a necessary fear of God.

1 John 4:16 - 5:14

Scripture recognizes fear as a legitimate motivator of human thought and action. But, God's truth instructs us so that we fear the right stuff! “don’t fear what man fears, fear God.

Fear of God

Fear of God is not a popular concept. A lot of us seem to think that God should be understood primarily as our friend, our buddy, our partner. Its is true God wants to have a joyous, peaceful relationship with you and me... but losing or even downplaying a proper fear of God will lead to disaster.

A practical purpose of fearing God is to keep you out of trouble: financial trouble, legal trouble, sexual trouble. It also helps you establish right relationships with your neighbors, on your job and a whole lot more Proverbs 19:23.

But we don't obey only for the physical blessings obedience might bring to our life, which only last but a short time. We fear and obey God because of His promise of righteous judgment. A judgment which determines whether or not we the next level of existence which is eternal life.  A judgment that is all knowing, all seeing, loving, fair, and just…. which is both comforting and scary at he same time.

The moral and spiritual instruction provided by God begins with His commandments guided by the attitudes which are most commonly known as the fruits of the spirit. IF you know the standards of God then you also know how much you fall short.

Fear of God teaches us to be humble before Him and to trust Him. Pride is a root of disobedience because a proud person says "my ways are right" and does not soberly consider with fear and trembling when they are at variance with the living God.

Fear of God understands that nothing is hidden from Him, every thought and motive is known. Sometimes, we are not even consciously aware of our motives. So we should pray for discernment that we can repent of hidden problems, overcome and live the love of God in heart and mind.

Fear of God teaches us that kindness, love, loyalty and faithfulness are the antidote for evil.

Fear of God is the way that leads to peace with God and our fellow human beings. And that is the plan for all who would be born of the eternal spirit

Proverbs 15:33-16:7

Reality is Governed By Laws [Which We Should Fear Breaking]

The material universe is governed by laws: physics, gravity, supply and demand. In addition to these there are spiritual laws at work in the universe, laws that scientists, economists, politicians, and philosophers know little of nothing about.

Some spiritual laws humans are able to discern from their own observations... but a comprehensive, well rounded knowledge of these spiritual laws comes through revelation from the Creator of all things both material and spirit. Which brings us back to the idea of information, freedom from ignorance and deception... or the revealed truth of God

Proverbs 9:10 and Isaiah 11:2-3

You Need To Act On The Information

If you want riches then conform to the laws of economics

If you want to avoid falling then conform to the laws of gravity

If you want to achieve peace, joy, love, then conform to the spiritual laws of God

Because of human nature and the  malicious influence of Satan humans resist these spiritual laws, reject them and try to replace them with their own "laws".

Humans don’t like God’s spiritual laws because the conflict with the desires of the flesh.

Humans don’t fear God’s spiritual laws because the disastrous effects of flouting them take a while to play out  Ecclesiastes 8:10-13. Some take years, some take decades, some will only bear out after death.

But, God's spiritual laws are not imposed upon you to hold you back, or punish you, or keep you from your full potential... they are simply the laws of eternity.  Just like gravity is a fundamental law of the material world... you don't fight against gravity, or resist its relentless logic... you learn to live within its parameters or you die.

Why not have the same attitude towards the spiritual laws of eternal reality?

If you get yourself in the right frame of mind your temporary physical existence, all its experiences, even your trials and sufferings can be appreciated as an exciting adventure... preparing you for the reality of eternal life, which is governed by laws. 

Proper Fear in The Presence of God

Exodus 20:18-21 fear is an appropriate response to the presence of God... the positive purpose of this fear is to keep you from doing evil. In verse 20 Moses says "do not be afraid, God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning". So, fear is presented as both a negative and a positive in the same sentence.

Example: when I was teaching my teenagers to drive I wanted them to have a healthy fear of the tremendous kinetic power of a moving vehicle and its ability to destroy and kill, but at the same time I did not want them to be so afraid that they would never drive. So, there was a positive fear I wanted them to have and a negative fear I did not want them to give in to.

In Deuteronomy 5:24-29 a parallel account the Mt. Sinai encounter tells us God's reaction when the people begged that He not speak directly to them. It was "well said" and pleasing to Him. God wants you to have a healthy fear. But not a negative fear or terror such that you avoid any interaction with Him.

The people realized they were in danger coming as close as they were. The fullness of God’s glory and Holiness is threatening to sinful humans because it is also the presence of righteous judgment.  Humans must approach God carefully lest they die. Also, God's presence among human beings must be limited so as not to overwhelm them and consume them with the fire of righteous judgment. Both these principles are dramatically portrayed in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.

The new covenant changed that…

Through Jesus it was possible for the most holy God to be present among human beings in a form humans could handle [flesh and blood]. Likewise, the holy spirit is the presence of God with human beings, which we experience as part of our mental process.

The danger of these two forms  of God's presence are easier for flesh and blood humans to reject or to quench:

People often reject Jesus Christ precisely because he is so human

People often reject the reality of the spirit because it is not overwhelming and all consuming and therefore easy to dismiss as a figment of imagination.

Fear & God's Presence in the Church

Acts 2:38-43 after experiencing the power of the holy spirit "everyone was filled with fear [phobos]. The kickoff experience of the new covenant church of God was characterized as having that positive fear of the presence of the living God.

Acts 5:1-6 Annanias and his wife Saphira were people who lost that sense of God's presence within the church. Their death led to great fear coming over the entire church. It was a demonstration that God is present within the assembly of the congregation... and He cares about how we present ourselves... He does not like deception, he does not like pride or arrogance, He does not like carelessness, He does not like confusion and disorder, He does not like disrespect towards himself or His appointed representatives.

Deuteronomy 4:10 we are called to assemble before Him each Sabbath so we may learn to fear Him. Through instruction and actively showing respect in sober conduct and decorum...[verse 24]... compare Hebrews 12:18-29.

Fear of God does not come naturally to the flesh and blood human. Fear of God has to be learned Ephesians 5:17-21.

Malachi 3:16-18

Fear & Your Personal Relationship With God

Without a proper fear of God we will not have a good relationship with Him. Spiritually informed fear is coming to an understanding how much God hates sin and evil.. and is fearful of being classified as a person who does evil.

1 Peter 3:10-12 God's eyes are upon you...His ears are open to your prayers... but saying amen does not stop God from listening. Everything is known and nothing is hidden from God. Multiple times in the prophets God shakes His head and says “I cannot believe these people think I don’t see what they are doing”.

If the holy spirit at work in you it will produce and reinforce a healthy fear of God. The larger purpose of that fear is to bring you into harmony with the laws of eternity so that you can successfully participate in eternal life. Godly fear is for your own good  Jeremiah 32:38-40.

Personal holiness, cleanness of mind and conscience is achieved through Godly fear 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Godly fear is a source of blessing today and for eternity Psalm 128:1-4.

Conclusion: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14




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