Don Cassity - 11/16/2011
I'm writing this because over the last several months the word "fear" has crept up in conversations. I don't know where I'm going with this. I'll let the Lord guide me and we'll find out together.
I know we are not to fear, for fear separates us from God. Fear is the opposite of faith. And yet we are called to fear the Lord. (Psa.111:10) The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom. I was thinking about what it means to fear the Lord. And have I, and do I, fear the Lord? Before I answer that, let me make a few observations.
The word "fear" is defined as "a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat". For us as Christians, the "perceived threat" is God.
Over the years, I have come across a lot of "Christians" who would confess their salvation and yet walk a life very contrary to that of Christ. And, yes, I was one of them, as well. So some of this will be of personal experience. When I was a baby Christian, I was told only of the love of God. That Jesus loves me. All my sins are forgiven. I have a free pass into heaven. I never knew that I needed to "fear the Lord" to have a deep reverence for God. To work out your (my) own salvation with fear and trembling (Php.2:12).
(Isa.66:2) For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be, saith Jehovah: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.
(Jer.5:22) Fear ye not me? saith Jehovah: will ye not tremble at my presence ...
So what does it mean to tremble? It is defined as "to shake involuntarily as with fear or cold". I know there are many instances in the Bible when faced with the presence of God that people trembled before Him. I was thinking that there must have been a time when people would go to church and when faced with their sins they trembled before the Lord. That they understood that sin would separate them from God. And when faced with that void, that deep expanse of emptiness, they would tremble. Today I don't see very much trembling. I see Christians today believing in a one-sided God. One of love, kindness and forgiveness.
God is all of those things. However, there is another side of God. One of jealousy, anger and judgment. There seems to be this image of God as a grandfatherish figure sitting on a cloud and looking down on us. And when we sin He just looks down at us, chuckles and gives a wink and a pat on the head. Many of us know what it is like to send our children off to spend the day with the grandparents, right?! They let them get away with things they would never let us do as children. Then the grandparents drop the kids back off at home, smile and wave goodbye. And we just knew as they were driving off they were laughing themselves silly. They had just spent the day spoiling them and now we have to undo all that was done. For the next several hours we would have to listen to, "Well, grandpa let me do that". Or, "Grandma would let me do this". For them, grandparents meant love, kindness and forgiveness. There was no fear of consequences, so no motivation to do good. Without that fear of God in Christians' lives, they will continue to walk in an unChristlike manner. It shows that Christians don't have a full understanding of God's judgment and severity. Where is the motivation?
(Rom.11:20) Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.
A lot of what we hear in churches today is love, love, love. You know, that is what we hear a lot of today. Where is the fear? Where is the reverence? The honor? Christians walk around like Jesus is their best friend. That they walk daily with Him on the beach. They have even written songs about making love to Him. Oh, Lord, help us! Christians today have become such good "friends" with Jesus that they have lost sight of their respect of Him. Many Christians today probably believe that they are such good friends with Jesus that when they come face to face with Him they are going to slap Him on the back and tell Him, "Hey, buddy. Thanks for dying on the cross for me. I really appreciate it". I don't think so! When John saw Jesus, (Rev.1:17) he fell at his feet as one dead. Will we do any less? I pray not!
If we as Christians truly fear the Lord, why then do we find ourselves satisfying the lusts of the flesh? Why do we still have anger toward our brother or sister? Why are we so willing to hang onto unforgiveness? Do we truly fear man more than God? (Mat.10:28) And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
If you have no fear of God, then you have to rely on a new gospel. One that you can justify your actions with. In doing so, you have put on a cloak of religion. You have created a weak and powerless Jesus and you have turned your back on Him and have left Him hanging on the cross. Think about it; now that is a fearful thought!
Paul writes, (Eph.5:15) Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; (16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (18) And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; (19) speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (20) giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (21) subjecting yourselves one to another in fear of Christ.
What then should our motivation be in obeying God? God looks for a man who fears Him. But is fear the only driving force? To be so afraid of God's divine wrath may keep us in line for a little while. Fear of being punished, though, is not the highest motivator for serving God. Now how many times have you heard or have said this? "I fear God because if I don't, something bad will happen to me". Come on. Be honest. I know I have thought it and have said it a few times myself. That if I step out of line, God is going to strike me with lightning. So you see, obeying God in this manner is very self-serving.
(Joh.14:15) If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. Our obedience should come from our love for God. Haven't you ever noticed that it's always easier to do something for someone that you care about? No matter how hard the task, the thought of pleasing that person became the driving force. That is the same kind of love we should have with God. Our love is given freely to God. We ask no other reward, other than pleasing Him and He gets all the glory. Though God does reward those who are obedient.
(Mat.6:4) that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. (18) that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
We should love God with all our mind and heart. With every fiber of our being we should come to the understanding of His might, His power. To realize how truly awesome He is. And by doing so we wouldn't dare run away from Him. But we would run to Him. To love Him so much that the thought of displeasing Him and being separated from Him would cause us to fear.
What I am going to share with you now is a very personal experience. It is one that many of you have gone through, as well, though the circumstances may not be the same. I pray that after you have read this you will be able to take what you have gone through and apply it to this topic.
When I was younger, there weren't too many things that would put fear into me. I was young, strong and thought that I would live forever. However, there were a couple of times when I was struck with true fear. The first time is when I heard a doctor tell me and my girlfriend Nancy's parents that Nancy had cancer. As soon as I heard the word "cancer", time stood still. Voices became nothing more than background noise. I could not deal with what I just heard. Fear grabbed ahold of me. The thought of losing my girlfriend to cancer was more than I could stand and I panicked. The next thing I knew I was running down the hallway to the elevators. I wasn't sure where I was going. All I knew was that I needed to get away from that word "cancer" as fast as I could.
I was mashing buttons, trying to get one of the doors to open. In what seemed like an eternity, I finally heard a "ding" and the sliding of doors. Just when I thought I was going to make my escape, a hand fell upon my shoulder. Nancy's dad, Ralph, caught up to me and told me that I needed to be there when Nancy woke up. It was hard, but I was able to get ahold of myself and put the fear aside. And I was there for her when she woke up. The next day, Nancy had surgery to remove the cancer and underwent six months of chemotherapy.
The next year we got married on her birthday. I told everyone that I was her birthday present. The following year we had started on our family and had our first child, a baby girl we named Allison. Six months later, however, the cancer had returned -- this time with a vengeance!
There was more chemotherapy, along with radiation treatments. On October 10, 1985 Nancy died. It was three days after our daughter's first birthday. I was at her side when she died. While she was taking her last breaths, I was holding her hand, telling her that I loved her and that I would miss her. As Nancy took her last breath, I saw a tear run down her cheek. A few moments later, her hand went cold in mine. And at the time of her death, fear had returned. A darkness fell over me and I went numb. I loved Nancy dearly and the thought of living the rest of my life without her was unbearable. There was a void in my life that was very real. An emptiness that couldn't be filled. I was truly heartbroken. Even now after 26 years I find myself in tears while typing this.
I have told you that because that is the closest way I can explain the way I feel toward God. I have a deep reverence and love for Him that just the thought of living an eternity without Him can draw me to tears. That being separated from God's grace forever would create such anguish in my heart that I would drop to my knees and cry out to Him.
I am reminded of a song we sing in fellowship: Create in Me a Clean Heart. The verses come from (Psa.51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit with in me. (11) Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy spirit from me. (12) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Whenever we sing that song and we get to verse 11, tears will start to stream down my face at the thought of being separated from His presence and having His Holy Spirit leave me. To this day, I have never been able to sing that song all the way through. In a way, I pray I never do.
Proverbs 14:26 is a very wonderful verse. It is not a very long verse, but it holds a key that will unlock an exciting truth about the "fear of the Lord". It reads: (Pro.14:26) In the fear of Jehovah is strong confidence; And his children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord will strengthen you. The fear of the Lord will give you boldness. You will be able to cast down all other forms of ungodly fears. Also, there is an amazing promise here: (19:23) The fear of Jehovah tendeth to life; And he that hath it shall abide satisfied; He shall not be visited with evil.
I take comfort in knowing that as long as I'm obedient and not in willful sin, I have nothing to fear in the Lord. (1Jn.1:7) but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Here are another couple of verses from 1 John to show that as long as we are in that perfected love of Christ, we have nothing to fear: (4:17) Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world. (18) There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love.
I also take comfort in knowing that if I do step outside of the light and become willfully disobedient, there will be consequences: (Heb.10:26) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries.
My friends, there will be a day of judgment. There is a heaven and a hell. There is an eternal life after death. The soul of man will live forever, either in eternal darkness or in eternal glory. I know you have heard this before. But it is so true. There is only one path to heaven. There are many roads that lead to hell.
(Pro.1:28) Then will they call upon me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me: (29) For that they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of Jehovah...
Let me ask you: Are there any ungodly fears that are separating you from God? Do you still have fleshly desires or unforgiveness? If so, turn away from them as fast as you can and flee. Do you love the Lord enough to cast down any idols you may have set up before Him? Are you hiding behind a religious belief that justifies your actions? Again I will say, come out from behind that lie and embrace God for who and what He truly is.
Idols can take on many forms. It isn't just drug or alcohol abuse. It can be anything that we put more importance on than God.
Now I know I'm a bit off topic, but the lack of fear of the Lord, the inability to love God with all your heart, will keep you in bondage to those idols. If you truly want to be free, fear the Lord.
Turn away from all of your false gods, false loves, false hopes. Anything else but God is a lie. God will never let us down. He is faithful, just and forgiving. He is the ultimate perfectionist. He is determined to make us holy so that we can live with Him forever. God is a perfectionist. He will not stop sanctifying us until He gets what He wants. And what He wants are vessels of honor. It is a fearful thought at just how far He will go to achieve that. After all, He is the potter and we are merely the clay.
(Heb.10:31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
It seems like too many Christians believe there is no punishment for sin; that now that they have become "saved" they no longer have to fear God. When the Lord opened my eyes to that, I ran away from that lie as fast as I could. And so should you! The New Testament is not a covenant for dishonesty. It is not a covering for willful disobedience. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Praise God!
Oh, and to answer the questions earlier: Have I, and do I, fear the Lord? There was a time when I didn't truly understand what it meant to fear the Lord. But I can honestly tell you now that, yes, I do fear Him! And I tremble! Now, in closing, I want to ask you a couple questions: Do you fear the Lord? Do you tremble?