This morning found me stuck in Hebrews 4. Have you ever gotten "stuck" in the Word? If not, you ought to try it sometime. Just let a verse captivate you and cause you to think on it for a whole day or a whole week even! It's like beef jerky. The more you chew on it, the more flavor comes out and by the time you swallow it, your cravings are completely satisfied! (I hope comparing the Word to beef jerky doesn't sound "irreverent", which brings me back to Hebrews 4).
Therefore let us fear lest while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.It got me thinking of a sermon I heard a few weeks ago on the fear of the Lord. In this verse the word "fear" comes from the Greek word "phobos", the same word we get our English word phobia from. It means "fear, frightful, scared, or horrified." In Christianity we most often think of fearing God in terms of "reverence." There is a Greek word for reverence, but it is not this form of "phobos". So we can assume that in this case, we are being told to have the shake-in-your-shoes-can't-hardly-breath-heart-pounding kind of fear. (I also discovered that there are many other references that use this same word.)
When you get right down to it, God is scary! Many times in the Old Testament people were terrified in their encounters with God. I know we live under a new and better covenant, but the fact remains that God has not changed. He is still as terrifying now as He was then. Judgement day will bear that out.
WHY? Because He alone has the power to determine our final resting place. He alone can choose to give us our next breath.
We are to love God and surely He has given us a myriad of reasons to love Him, but the fact remains that He can be just as terrifying.
Doesn't scripture tell us to
Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.We cannot have an unbalanced view of God or we will err either on the side of paralysis or the other extreme-flippancy.
We can love and fear God at the same time. (1 Jn. 4:18) I love my zero turn mower but I also fear it! Why? Because it is a powerful machine. I love what it does and how it does it, but I fear what it can do if I do not operate it properly. You could say I reverence it in that I respect it enough that I don't do certain things when it's running but that respect first came from just being completely afraid of it. That kind of fear is healthy for me. Because of it I will probably not lose an arm or be crushed under the mower's weight.
Scripture instructs us not to fear those on earth that can hurt or kill us. We are not to fear sickness either, but we are to fear the one who can send us to eternal damnation. Truly, our reverence then comes out of the "phobos" fear of the Lord.
I see way too little "fear of the Lord" in Charismatic circles these days. It's all about "Daddy God". There is a frightful flippancy that borders on disrespect. It's a flippancy that brings God down to our level. (Just so you know, God the Father never lowers Himself. He raises us.)
God often caused "phobos" in people in the New Testament. In Mk. 4:41, the disciples "feared" Jesus because of His power over the storm. In Mk. 5 they feared Jesus when he healed the demoniac. When John saw Jesus in His resurrected body, he fell as a dead man. That is not reverence, that is terror! Imagine, John was seeing the one that had been his best friend on earth for the first time since his ascension and he was scared to death!
The preacher of sermon I heard said something that kind of summed it all up for me when he said "the truth of the matter is this; Salvation is not about being saved from sin, it's about being saved from God" We reverence God because we fear him. We fear His wrath. We fear His power. We fear His omnipotence. When we understand this and let it profit us, then we can truly love and reverence God as we see the great kindness that He has extended to us .
"Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God."
"It is the kindness of God that leads a man to repentance."
We can only see his kindness when we first have seen and understand His wrath.
Am I afraid of God? Not any longer. Because I feared Him, I embraced the love that He extended to me with wholehearted devotion. And because I feared Him, I love Him. Because I love Him, I reverence Him and I am not flippant concerning the things of God. But it was the knowledge of His judgment that first brought me to consider my ways. Then when His love was extended, it was an irresistable thing.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."