What Does It Mean to Fear God?
While in Nashville recently, I was reading on the subject of the Fear of God. While doing so I came across the following statement made by a popular television Pastor… “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelistic enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, un-Christian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” Did you get that? Are you kidding? How “woke” is that? Have we lost the fear of God? God help us if we ever give up the clear Biblical teaching that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
The age we are living in has lost any sense of the fear of God and that, tragically, includes many American pulpits and people coming and going in and out of the Church. Dr. O.S. Hawkins has described the age in which we live as “the no fear culture.” He says, we now have “a couple of generations who know little of the nature of God.” And that’s huge because understanding the nature of God makes the difference in whether you accurately worship God or worship a god of your own making. He goes on to describe the fear of God as “a reverential awe, a sense of being afraid of offending a holy God in any way.” Commenting on fearing God, Dr. R.T. Kendall writes, “So many water down the fear of God by quickly saying, ‘Now that doesn’t mean to be afraid of God.’ Really? It certainly does mean that; otherwise, nobody would begin to feel real respect and awe for the God of the Bible. When the Bible refers to people walking in the fear of the Lord, I believe it means that they were in fact scared to death. The fear of God is a no-nonsense and no joke reality. It is very real when described in the Bible and is often intended to strike fear in us—even shake us to our fingertips. It did in the early church.”
Now living in fear of God doesn’t negate His great love for us, nor our ability to experience His love and grace. But the fear of God should elevate us out of a lackadaisical, callous and tepid approach to the most Holy God. In the book of Acts, chapter 5 tells the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira and their attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit under the attempted guise of Christian faith… it didn’t end well for either of them, both fell down dead, and the scripture records in verse 11 that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”
While we often speak of repentance being the catalyst to a move of God, it is unlikely that we will see repentance leading to revival without a renewed fear of God. The Cane Ridge Revival, as it is known, was part of America’s second great awakening in the early to mid 1800’s. In Bourbon County, Kentucky the move was so powerful that people came from all over the South to participate in what would later come to be known as the start of the camp meeting movement. And according to one eyewitness, one man who had not been invited to preach, decided to do so anyway and simply stepped up on a fallen tree and took as his scripture, “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Before he could conclude his message, his voice could not be heard over the groans, distress and shouts of victory. Hundreds fell prostrate to the ground totally powerless… it was estimated that the crowd was 10,000 or more and those who were lying on the ground in the deepest of agonies and fear of God numbered over 500 including both saved and those previously lost. Others who were not so overcome, still found themselves unable to speak, move, or even breathe more than large difficult breaths once a minute or so. And when they recovered, they felt no pain and could recount everything that they had experienced and witnessed.
When the Holy Spirit and the fear of God fell upon them, repentance and revival resulted. Yes, the fear of God means to revere Him, but don’t be naïve, it also clearly means to be afraid of Holy God… let’s not forget that. And remember, God is always trying to take us someplace new. I love being your Pastor!
For God’s Glory Alone,