Let me start out by posing a question that God Himself asks His people, His men:
“Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence?” (Jeremiah 5:22)
Approaching God in Fear
Too many of us continue to approach God solely as a buddy or as a friend. We high-five Him, joke with Him, call Him our homeboy and completely forget that He is the Lord God Almighty, the King of glory, and the Lion of Judah. While an intimate friendship with Him is to be desired, this should not take away from the fear and awe by which we approach Him. Abraham, whom the Bible called a friend of God (James 2:23), understood how to speak to Him. While he was pleading with the Lord to save Sodom he approached Him with humility and reverence:
“Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27)…Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more” (Genesis 18:32).
Bad things happen when we forget to give God the honor and glory due to Him:
For instance, when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel a man named Uzzah was afraid it was going to fall off the cart it was being carried in so he “put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it” and in His anger, God struck him dead on the spot (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was where God physically manifested Himself to the people of Israel between the two golden cherubim, and there was a certain way it was to be approached and carried (it definitely wasn’t supposed to be touched by Uzzah, even if he thought he was helping). God’s anger wasn’t aroused because he didn’t follow the rules – it was because of the lack of fear by which Uzzah touched the Ark.
In order to really worship God – to deeply, from the bottom of your heart really adore Him – you need to fear Him.
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? (Revelation 15:4)
In my Orthodox Church, during the major parts of the liturgy, the word ‘fear’ is always used. Before we read the gospel, the deacon says, “Stand up in the fear of God and listen to the Holy Gospel.” This reminds the congregation that what we are about to read is the Living Word of God that has the power to transform lives. Also, right before the Holy Spirit descends on the bread and wine to mysteriously change them into the Body and Blood of Christ, the deacon chants, “Worship God in fear and trembling.” Whenever the word ‘fear’ is mentioned it is a reminder to wake up and really understand what is taking place around you.
The thing is… God wants to ‘wow’ us with all that He is. He doesn’t want our lives with Him to be routine or ordinary. He wants us to know the He is Holy, Just, Sovereign, Majestic, Powerful, AMAZING – not just in our heads, but in our hearts:
…these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder… (Isaiah 29:13-14).
We need to learn to worship God the way King David did:
But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple (Psalm 5:7).
We need to ask Him to open our eyes to the greatness of who He is and all that He does so that we might be able to fearfully worship Him:
I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)
We don’t worship a wimpy God – we worship THE LORD!
I can’t put it better than the following quote by Mike Yaconelli:
“I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, “Fear not”; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or a doctrine or theology, it is God’s burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God’s presence except us.”
Fear Keeps Us From Sin
This shouldn’t be the primary focus of fearing God but there really is no way around this verse:
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 12:5)
Put another way: By the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16:6)
As Godly men, the fear of God should motivate us to continually seek and pursue Him with all of our hearts in order to be that branch that bears fruit:
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2)
Let’s not forget that at the end of it all we will all have to approach His throne to give an account of everything we did in this life:
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
The Maturation of Fear is Love
Fear is in the beginning: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
Love is in the end: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… but he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
What takes place in the middle is really cool:
In Matthew 13, Jesus gives us “The Parable of the Hidden Treasure” and “The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (verses 44-46)
In these two stories the two men portrayed are not very business savvy (and one of them is even a merchant!) Why would they sell everything they have to obtain this one thing that they had found? Why not just sell enough of their stuff to buy it for a reasonable price? You can almost look at these parables and say these men were operating with the notion that what they were doing was urgent. It was critically important. It is very possible that they were afraid that someone else would find what they had found and beat them to buying it. They wanted it regardless of what they had to do or sell to get it.
God wants us to be afraid in this way: He wants us to be afraid of losing Him. He wants us to be like these two men in the sense that we’ll do anything in order to have Him – to have more and more of Him in our lives.
In the famous Psalm of repentance, King David pleads “Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit away from me” (Psalm 51:11).
No, God is not going to leave us or forsake us, but we need to stop treating our sin like it doesn’t matter; we need to stop approaching Him with apathy; we need to be afraid of hurting Him and bringing sorrow to His heart; we need to FEAR Him:
the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)
“Our world is… longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender… and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, ‘I love you.’” (Mike Yaconelli)